What countries provide the most farm subsidies? Agricultural subsidies are, in part, a recognition of the unique challenges that the agriculture sector faces – but they can also have trade-distorting effects.
The history of pistachio trade reveals quirks in the broader world of global agricultural trade. The growth of America’s pistachio industry came after the U.S. imposed trade sanctions against Iran in response to the Iran Hostage Crisis and the two countries have a complicated trade history. But global global demand for pistachios is higher than production, leaving room for both American and Iranian producers.
Discussions are now underway as to whether EU antitrust policies need to be relaxed in order to allow greater latitude to meet the challenge posed by Chinese mega-firms.
China went from a net importer of critical intermediary goods such as glass, paper, steel, and auto parts, to becoming the leading producer and dominant global exporter of these products. How could this seismic shift occur in industries where China does not maintain a particular advantage in labor, technology, or natural resources? The answer in large part is subsidization of Chinese production in the form of state-directed capital flows.
Government subsidies to fishing industries may be accelerating the depletion of fish stocks. Nearly 90 percent of the world’s fish stocks are at risk of being overfished. WTO members first started negotiating on fisheries subsidies in 2001 and have vowed to reach an agreement restraining these kinds of subsidies by the end of 2019.
After a decade of setting the topic aside in the WTO, concerns appear to be rising to surface again that certain anti-competitive government practices may not be covered sufficiently – or at all – by provisions in global trade agreements.
The announcement that trade talks in Beijing between the United States and China had been extended by a day sparked an uptick in stocks and renewed optimism that a resolution to the trade war might be in the offing. A minimal face-saving agreement should be possible before the March deadline, but this would only delay the ultimate day of reckoning. Friction points between China’s state-directed economic system and the United States’ ostensibly free market, free trade system will reassert themselves sooner rather than later.
Production limits and price-setting means Canadian milk drinkers pay significantly more than they would in a free market. Conversely, for certain lucrative and in-demand dairy product ingredients, Canadian dairy boards have set prices at or below international market prices. U.S. and other global dairy farmers have argued this offers Canadian exports an advantage in third markets, while driving global prices and farm receipts down. Will NAFTA 2.0 change any of this?
In 2016, the United States imported $1.3 billion worth of natural rubber, second only to China as the world’s largest importer. But America’s largest rubber band manufacturer has asked U.S. trade agencies to investigate whether China, Thailand, and Sri Lanka are subsidizing their producers, enabling them to sell unfairly cheap rubber bands.
President Trump just announced $50 billion worth of tariffs and other penalties on China for its theft of intellectual property, technology, and trade secrets. China will not change its behavior absent external pressure — pushing back against the constant drain from Chinese IP theft is long overdue.