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Discuss rice with Obama

November 15, 2012

THAILAND was notified last week that the United States is concerned about the government’s rice-buying project. Washington has no evidence, but plans to complain to the World Trade Organisation…. The main reason the US Trade Representative … is upset is because the government is buying rice from farmers at above-market prices. The question the US wants answered is whether Thailand will then sell — ‘dump’ is the legal word — that rice on world markets at lower prices.

The charge is a red herring. The USTR has no more evidence that Thailand will dump rice than any other product. In theory, Thailand might dump chilli peppers... or blue jeans. Of course, the US might dump its own agricultural products. It certainly has done so in the past. Many argue it is still doing that. The European Union is continuing to pursue a case that the US has already lost once at the WTO — that Washington is complicit in providing huge subsidies to the Boeing company to sell its jets well below their market value.

… Governments in general have policies to benefit their farmers, who, as Thailand knows, are the backbone of the nation. The US certainly understands this. In the 1970s, when the US was the world’s biggest rice exporter, the country was accused in serial trade complaints of dumping rice on foreign markets….

In this case, the US has taken its protectionist policies far past logical or acceptable limits….Courts, including the world trade courts, can only deal with hard evidence. So long as the US has no evidence of dumping rice — which Washington admits — there is no case to pursue. … —(Nov 13)