16 November, 2008 - Let’s Hope for Good Answers

A new administration from the other side of the aisle brings more questions than answers in the days following the election. Indeed it is too early to expect many of those answers, but they will be coming as President-elect Obama puts together his team of Cabinet officers and top political advisors.

While there was a great deal of enthusiasm around the world over the election outcome, questions are being raised in some countries, particularly those countries depending on agricultural trade to support their economy, on the future of trade negotiations. One of those countries is Brazil, one of the most enthusiastic proponents of concluding a deal in the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round. A trade official said “It’s time to get moving to resume the talks to get some kind of agreement in place before President-elect Obama takes office in January."

The concern is that trade issues will not be as high on the political agenda as other issues under an Obama administration. Trade experts say that trade talks could drop down the political agenda and that an incoming administration might be tempted to ‘unpick’ some of the points already agreed upon in previous negotiations. I have expressed concern because of campaign comments made by Senator Obama that trade agreements need to be reexamined; perhaps rearranged if not eliminated. That concerns farmers, not only in this country, but other countries as well.

The goal of the seven-year-old Doha Round ( that’s right, it has been seven years now since we started talking about a new world trade agreement) was to cut import tariffs and to open borders around the world to agricultural products. Those talks have been stalled because of trade disagreements between the European Union and the United States. Whether or not they get going under an Obama administration is a concern and a question in the minds of many people.

There is another concern for farmers and ranchers in possible appointments by President-elect Obama. There is increasing talk in Washington political circles that Robert Kennedy, Jr., active environmentalist and animal rights advocate, could be in line for a major position, perhaps at the Environmental Protection Agency. As a Washington attorney, he has led lawsuits against livestock farmers and a couple of years ago stated his goal was to eliminate hog confinement farms in the United States. PETA loves him and will actively campaign for a D.C. appointment.

Indeed, there are many questions; let’s hope agriculture gets good answers.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.