Sunday 24 May 2009

American disappointments

I drove from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Fairfax, Virginia late in the summer of 1998 to start grad school at George Mason. I remember stopping in Pennsylvania (80% sure it was was a long drive) at a Sheetz gas station to fill up and finding a petition next to the gas bowser. Customers were invited to take away a form to mail to their Congressman protesting Pennsylvania's proposed move to mandate minimum gas prices, which Sheetz (a discount brand) rightly recognized as an attempt by the big guys to squeeze out the discounters. I was crushed. The Canadian press likes to paint the US as some horrible jungle of rampant individualism where government stays out of folks' way; I hadn't fully believed it, but I'd hoped for it.

Kiwis are experiencing similar disappointment currently. New Zealand had started talking about a free trade agreement with the US under each country's prior administration; things seemed to be moving forward with the change in administrations. And then the US pushes through massive dairy export subsidies. Says prominent Kiwi economics commentator Bernard Hickey:
I have previously argued in this piece “Why an American Free Trade is a ludicrous and dangerous idea” that it would be a mistake for New Zealand to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with America. It would open the door for the lobby groups for US agriculture, pharmaceutical and movie/music interests to gut any deal so it was worthless, or even worse, force us to change our copyright laws and shut down Pharmac.

I said Americans lie and cheat on trade policy. They protest they want free trade, but regularly act to restrict trade and subsidise their exporters. Lobbyists dominate the trade agenda in America. Here is more proof of that.


  1. It's worse than just the US, as the EU have reintroduced dairy export subsidies as well. :-(