Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The politics of trade and vengeance

So, I would like to write a counter-argument to Ewan's last post. I can understand why the South Koreans have bigger fish to fry, but as someone who spends about a month or two every year in Canada visiting family, I hear a lot more about US trade policies from the outside world's point of view. In the case of Canada, there are two instances where US trade policy has been detrimental, that I feel knowledgeable to talk about.

First, the beef problem.
I can remember a few summers ago, a Canadian farmer had discovered a possible case of mad cow. He followed the strict government guidelines, quarantined, killed, burned, etc. The Canadian government saw no problem. However, the pure hearted and public safety minded United States Government felt the heat from the public (cattle farmer/ agribusiness lobbyists) and banned the beef. I can understand how the US might be worried about tainted beef, if not for the fact that the Canadian government had stricter standards for dealing with cases of mad cow, that the US still forced US cattle across the border, and that Canada happened to be a country that put few to no forces on the ground in Iraq. I know, I know, our government wouldn't be so vengeful, would it? Of course they would.
The twist to this story is that later in the summer, or the next year, a possible case of mad cow was discovered in the US, US Cattle was banned in Japan, and the US farm lobby worked its ass off to force those ungrateful Japanese to accept our meat. I guess it was either miss out on Kobe beef or wait an eternity for the corrupt FDA regulators to make agribusiness clean up their cow farms and you know, make them stop feeding cows cow brains.

Second, in my mother's home province of Prince Edward Island, a few summers ago a potato farmer discovered a fungus. He quickly quarantined the bad plants and did everything that you're supposed to do, and the government said everything was cool. But the United States - which still is fighting a war that Canada doesn't like, and has potato farmers of its own - decides to go ahead and ban PEI potatoes for a while, just because. Up in PEI, that's pretty much the best answer anyone could seem to come up with. By the governments' pretty reasonable standard of agricultural safety, everything was kosher - I certainly still ate the fresh new PEI potatoes coming into my uncle's general store every week. But for some reason or another, the US had to ban those potatoes.

I'm sure there are other cases of US economic bullying, but these are two that come to mind.
To go back to the original reason I posted, the US does not follow World Health Organization mad cow guidelines. So while the Korean's fears may be slightly unwarranted and overreacting, their fears are also slightly warranted.

1 comment:

Ewan Compton said...

Basically, the US jerks when it comes to food imports/ exports.