« Karl's Comments

To Trade or Not to Trade

by Jeremy Lawrence

From all indications, the federal government operations overseas - in whatever direction - dont seem to be going well. It is as though the U.S. is not so much to be reckoned with, as once was the case. I suppose communications advances have something to do with it. Friends and adversaries know, almost as soon as it happens, what someone in our government has said or done. However, it should also be true, that if we - that is, - our government were doing and announcing things that would be of support for our friends or of concern to our adversaries, that, too, would adjust the balance.

President Obama is the highest profile representative of the U.S. and as such hes getting nowhere with his counterpart in Afghanistan. The same is true in several jurisdictions in the Middle East, and in Europe.

Hes not lonely in that regard, as his Secretary of Health has bailed out - just the latest to leave, with a resume not nearly so shiny as when she arrived in Washington.

Agriculture Tom Vilsack is doing reasonably well here at home, I guess, but theres a whole lot more to a thriving U.S. Agriculture than what happens here at home. Weve been hearing recently about some pretty interesting international trade proposals. So far, theyve been just that - -proposals. There seems to be pretty general historical agreement that the imposition of tariffs gives the initiator a leg up in export profit - -but only until the other guy imposes tariffs in the trading of goods or services. Usually goods, I suppose. The big time world traders of goods - and here were interested in agricultural trade - appeared some time ago to be approaching understanding that when everybody gets into the tariff business, then about all that happens is business gets more complicated - - maybe more expensive. So, the thinking seemed to be going, lets get rid of this tariff thing, and everybody can profit by the clear, clean, international trade thing.

Well - thats not gonna happen, at least not anytime soon, despite the best efforts of Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. Those two, in testimony before House committees earlier this month contend that Japan is the problem holding off a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiation. That, of course, is with reference to agricultural trade, because Japan wants to talk TPP, but wont put Agriculture on the negotiating table. Vilsack says we have to see increased market access, or there may not be any Trans-Pacific Partnership, or there may be a TPP, without Japan. Froman says one country cannot feel entitled to exclude vast areas of market access, while other countries put everything on the table.

To that, Im afraid, Japan is likely to say Oh, yeah? Watch me!

Karl Guenther is a retired farm broadcaster at WKZO and can be reached at khguenther@charter.net . He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. (accompanying picture is a screen capture from YouTube)