There often seems to be a fly in the ointment when it comes to world trade in agriculture, and that fly often seems to originate in the United States.
It is safe to say that the United States are eager traders in farm products as long as they perceive they are getting the best of the deal.
While it is human nature to some degree to want to come out of a deal feeling like we have ‘won’ the day – a full tank of gas on a used car purchase for example – but world trade has to be a bit more of a place of give and take in order to keep goods flowing both ways.
Canadian producers have always thought of themselves as growing the best hard spring wheat in the world. You have the best product then sales should be easy. But not everyone wants to the highest quality, or can afford it. Trade is not that black and white, so trade is about negotiation that includes give and take.
Trade rules over the years have been made a bit clearer for all involved by countries signing onto the World Trade Organization, which has included an appeal process to help resolve disputes which are going to pop up from time to time.
Having a process of resolution is critical to keeping trade on as even a keel as possible.
However, the increasingly protectionist USA, and its tendency to use its position to bully others to get what it wants, have created a level of trade disaccord of late.
The WTO’s appellate body ceased functioning on Dec. 10 because the United States blocked the appointment of appellate judges. The U.S. is using its veto on appointments to protest what it perceives as an anti-U.S. bias in the WTO’s dispute settlement system, or in other words they are getting what they want at the table so they are willing to upset the table.
Without a functioning appellate body countries are no longer able to appeal WTO rulings, casting doubt on the entire dispute settlement process.
Some countries have come up with a ‘word around’ but that is a band-aid to a rather serious problem.
There is enough issues facing trade at present, political uncertainty from Britain to Washington and of course the aura that is coronavirus, that the system does not need meddling from a disgruntled trade partner.
Of course therein lies the heart of things. Trade deals are partnership and both partners need to find a way to make a dollar in order to be around to make future deals. When arguments arise resolution is needed. It’s too bad in this instance the USA is trying to bully the system and in the process disrupt trade.
Calvin Daniels is Editor with Yorkton This Week.