The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, July 07, 2005
 

US cotton subsidies: another test for DINOs?


We're approaching High Noon on CAFTA (earlier pieces) in the House after the current recess.

But another area of trade politics may be heating up with Bush bowing to the WTO ruling [1] on cotton subsidies as a Gleneagles twofer.

Needless to say, Bush needs Congressional action. Summertime and the cotton lobby is high (or something...). My guess is that no one will be trying that hard that soon.

I will be curious to see which Congressional Dems take the high ground of helping poor countries and fulfilling US international obligations, and which choose to whore after the cotton lobby - and thus burnish their credentials with the protectionist tendency of the party.

CAFTA, I gather, is being used by some of them as a pretext for revising previous stances favouring free trade (such as voting for NAFTA [2]). A key element of the modern protectionist argument is the harmful effect of treaties like CAFTA on the population of the third world signatories. I'm inclined to believe (since we're talking about pols - who make weasels look like fluffy bunnies) that this is a mere pretext or smokescreen.

Cotton provides a litmus test: the countries demanding the end to US cotton subsidies are - third world countries! (Brazil took the case to the WTO.)

So the two impulses to protection - US producers and concern for poor nations - are on opposite sides of the cotton argument.

Will Dems vote their "consciences"or their wallets?

  1. The dispute number is WT/DS267; for the appellate body ruling, go here and show initiative.

    The subsidies are shelled out under what is known as the Step 2 Program.

  2. The RCVs in the House and Senate. The scores on the doors were 234-200, D102-156, R132-43; and 61-38, D26-28, R35-10. Kerry, Kennedy - and Trent Lott voted in favour, as did Pelosi and Hoyer; Harry Reid voted against.

MORE

The pressure on Step 2 comes also from the fact - if it is one - that the Brazilians have asked the WTO for permission to impose sanctions on the US for non-compliance with the WTO ruling by the stipulated July 1 deadline.

This piece details the USG plans - somewhat more complicated that just eliminating Step 2, apparently. Some steps require executive action only.

Step 2 is part of the 3-Step Competitiveness Plan - as described by the National Cotton Council of America. (Who are lobbyists, in case you hadn't twigged.)

They don't like USG's proposals - and, yes, he is Catholic.

The Chairman of the NCC, I note, is the confusingly named Woods Eastland. Any relation, I wonder, to James O Eastland, who took over the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee just in time to have fun with what became the Civil Rights Act of 1957?

(JO Eastland anecdote about the appointment of Harold Cox as District Judge in Mississippi (ironically, he got to sit on the Mississippi Burning civil rights case):
Senator Eastland had the power to block President Kennedy’s appointment of NAACP counsel Thurgood Marshall to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit—an appointment Kennedy very much wanted to make. Eastland bargained for his old friend, saying to Robert Kennedy, “Tell your brother that if he will give me Harold Cox I will give him the nigger.”
Eastland, of course, was, and remained to the end of his service in 1978, a Democrat.)


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