EU on US Trade Policies: Pot-and-Kettle Syndrome

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 6/12/2008 12:53:00 AM
Just out is the WTO's trade policy review of the United States, the world's top trader in terms of both imports and exports. While most of the report's findings should hold few surprises for those who are generally familiar with US trade policy, I am amused that the EU has used this opportunity to probe the US about rising levels of protectionism [!] when it is hardly guiltless in this and other respects. Here is the introductory blurb on the EU's site:

The European Union used the opportunity of a two-day WTO review of US trade policy to raise concerns about rising levels of protectionism in America. The EU submitted more than 90 detailed technical questions to the United States about its trade policy during the meeting.

In its opening statement to the ninth WTO Trade Policy Review of the United States in Geneva on June 9, the EU expressed its concern at worrying signs of a re-emergence of protectionist sentiment in the United States. The increasingly restrictive import requirements imposed by the US for security purposes – new legislation requiring the 100% scanning of containers destined for the US was an example - and the lack of reform in the 2008 US Farm Bill raised doubts about the compliance and professed intent of some aspects of US trade policy with the WTO.

In questions to the US, the European Union also raised the use of fisheries subsidies, intellectual property rights enforcement, sanitary measures for food products, RTA [Regional Trade Agreements] policy and constraints on investment in services sectors.

The EU believes that the "trade policy review" mechanism plays an important role by ensuring that WTO members review each others' openness to trade and raise concerns about market barriers and compliance with WTO rules and procedures.

Aside from concerns that "security"-related measures may be protectionism in disguise, the 2008 Farm Bill which has been much derided here [1, 2] and elsewhere also serves as fodder for EU criticism. Nevermind that the EU maintains pretty hefty subsidies itself, but maybe it's the spirit of the legislation that counts:

The expiration of the 2002 Farm Bill presented a significant opportunity for the United States, and for the wider WTO membership, to secure a more reformed-oriented US agricultural policy. Unfortunately, this opportunity has been missed, and the recently enacted 2008 Farm Bill has followed the same trade-distorting direction as its predecessor.

Some preliminary analysis reveal that the new provisions have even aggravated the trade-distorting character of the former Farm Bill, in particular, in a number of sectors such as cereals, cotton, sugar and dairy products.

Today, we would like to learn further on the intended objectives and foreseen consequences on world trade of the enactment of the 2008 Farm Bill, and the grounds on which the US justifies it. We wonder what signal the US is giving to us all with such retrograde Farm Bill [their language--not mine!].