Agribusiness Freedom Foundation  
Home arrow Sentinel e-Newsletter arrow August 2005 arrow What the CAFTA-DR Vote Means for the Future
Main Menu
About AFF
Latest Op/Ed Release
Sentinel e-Newsletter
Newsletter Signup
Staff Bios
Make A Contribution
Contact Us
What the CAFTA-DR Vote Means for the Future PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Thursday, 11 August 2005
AFF Sentinel Vol.2, #39

Trade Issues Will Continue To Come Up

The U.S. Congress has never failed to approve a trade treaty. So the razor-thin margin of victory in the House's passage of the CAFTA-DR treaty should be a wake-up call to cattlemen who favor free trade - both imports and exports.

That there would be some opposition to a trade agreement by union interests, by particular industries threatened by competitive disadvantages of climate or labor costs, by those who oppose change and adaptation in favor of the status quo was not surprising. What was surprising was the opposition to a trade treaty that was to do so much to level the playing field for much of agriculture and for U.S. consumers, yet garnered so many "no" votes among those supposed to be watching out for the U.S. economy.

Much of the opposition came from unions, of course, whose viewpoint is always to protect the jobs they have now. They ignore shifts in consumer demand, technological advances or needs for changing labor skills or supplies in favor of locking industries and consumers into a time warp more suited to the past.

Opposition from other liberal activist groups (LAG's*) ignored the real issues of economic freedom, lowering costs for U.S. consumers and allowing Americans to buy from whomever in the world they wish. Instead, they mostly talked about issues relevant only to a few. The tactics centered on the usual: fear; loss of certain jobs - regardless of the new jobs that would be created by trade; and concerns that the less fortunate in other countries would be "exploited," but ignoring the welcome income from U.S. purchases of goods and services. Of course, they didn't talk about what their protectionism really means - their opposition to lowering costs to American consumers.

One of the side issues brought up was the U.S. trade deficit and fears it could increase under CAFTA- DR. The trade deficits really mean that our economy produces more income than we can spend at home. Trade deficits mean that the U.S. is strong enough to be the world's largest exporting and importing nation and still engender the investing confidence of the whole world. These groups also continue their rhetoric against "large, multinational corporations." They don't see that such companies would be best equipped to invest capital and management over the extended time necessary to forge production systems and raise the standards of living for Central American people. These countries also desperately need exposure to economic and political freedom to improve their lives and eventually become better customers for the U.S. and better trading partners.

Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch catalogued the groups opposing CAFTA-DR as labor, environmental, immigrants' rights and faith-based groups as well as "rural" groups we would characterize more as rural social reform groups.

These groups all concentrate on the possible visible effects of job losses or job transitions. They ignore the invisible effects of higher costs to industry and to consumers, lost markets to American businesses and the people they employ.

Opposition from within the beef industry - especially from R-CALF and their affiliates and the Organization for Competitive Markets -- overlooked key priorities and concentrated on non-existent or distant threats and Central American social issues.

These groups totally ignored the fact that we need lean manufacturing beef to cover our domestic production shortfall. They made much of the potential threat of Central American beef overrunning the U.S. market, when these countries have never come close to filling the quotas in existence for years. They describe Central American beef as suitable only for local grass-fed tastes, yet claimed it as competitive with "U.S.-fed cattle" in the same release. The poverty, lack of government stability and basic infrastructure they decry are the very things that mean a burgeoning fed-cattle industry is generations away in Central America - if indeed it ever happens.

Besides - long, long-term, are we really going to pass a law that says no one else but U.S. feeders can feed grain to cattle?

I think the majority of American cattlemen are getting tired of being told by the LAG that they just "don't get it," or we're "just stupid stooges," or "tools of the packers." We understand the economic big picture and the value of economic freedom. We're also tired of activists trying to decry the success of the last 50 years and their attempts to throttle the potential of the next 50 years. Cattlemen are tired of the LAG's labor-union-style thinking, the coercion of legal maneuvers and legislative attempts to make it difficult or illegal to improve production systems.

Cattlemen need to consider the long-term impacts of free trade and get ready for upcoming trade battles. Exports are an increasingly important part of all U.S. economic activity, and nations are like people - they consider trade a two-way street.

In fact, it's time all American voters educated themselves to the facts and insist Congress put the interests of the consuming citizen first, and the majority of American business next when evaluating economic questions of trade. Protecting small pockets of those resistant to change and adaptation is not in the best interests of the country.

*Fringe activist groups like Public Citizen (Ralph Nader), Consumer's Union, Consumer Federation of America (Carol Tucker Foreman), R- CALF, Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), Greenpeace, Global Resource Council for the Environment (GRACE) and others opposing mainstream, free-market, capitalist agriculture.

Email your comments to the author


Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 June 2006 )
< Previous   Next >
designed by