Hold the cheating cheaters to account

Experts on various agricultural commodities and trade say a large number of our trading partners are blatantly flouting rules of trade deals. Our government, through lack of will for some reason, hasn’t wanted to drag the cheaters into the WTO spotlight. And that’s hardly a new problem.

We are assured our government wants to do something, wants to put things right, wants to make trading partners play by the same rules and be punished when they don’t. Yet, provided ample opportunities and examples of cheating, officials have offered little but words enabling the thievery to continue. And now, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) expected to soon be taken up by Congress, they want us to get behind another trade deal?

I don’t think anyone expects all parties to be perfectly pure, to not try and manipulate language in the deals to their best advantage. I hope our fellow countrymen are doing the same. Find a loophole in the fine print and exploit it? Fine, but that isn’t what’s happening.

No, the boldness of the cheating is astounding as was pointed out by Carl Brothers, Riceland CEO, at the Memphis gin show a few weeks back. “The only one that’s playing by the rules is the United States,” he said of domestic supports. “I say everyone else is cheating.

“A U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) study says that’s exactly what is happening. These people don’t even make reports (to the WTO). They haven’t reported in years.”

Check out that last sentence again. In years.

Recently in Little Rock, trade ambassador Darci Vetter, a very nice lady, was asked why the United States allows such. A rice industry representative told her that the sector “watches everyone come and do nice PowerPoint presentations but when we go to activate the deals (other countries) don’t stick to the rules on the books.”

It was a great point and Vetter pointed to action being taken. “We’re working with the rice industry … to look very specifically at how countries are implementing (subsidy) policies and whether those remain consistent with international obligations. How can we encourage them, with whatever tools necessary, to follow the rules?”

Yes, there are already plenty of tools available. Now, go ahead and use them.

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