"I’ve just come back from almost three days in a freezing cold Washington DC.
It was an extremely educational visit – hopefully for my hosts as much as for me.
But it was also a reality check.
We have talked at length in Brussels about the importance of farm subsidy reform in the US for the future prospects of the Doha trade round.
We have looked to the new US Farm Bill proposals to give a clear signal that reform is on the horizon.
My discussions in Washington showed that the Farm Bill will be written very much with domestic concerns in mind.
DOHA does not seem to be high on the agenda in farm bill discussions.
This is a very different approach to ours, where we reform first and then look to lock these reforms into a WTO agreement.
I was also struck by the fact that many of the forces that today shape European agriculture policy – consumer interest, environmental considerations, budgetary pressure, development policy - seems strangely absent from the American debate. It’s farming interest – and increasingly also energy (biofuels) that is shaping policy. Could you imagine that in Europe?
I like the straight talking you hear on Capitol Hill. But it brings home to me clearly how different the political process in Washington is to that I know so well in Brussels.
Of course there were bright spots.
Crucially, my visit was an important exercise in confidence-building.
Deal-making is so much easier if the people facing each other across the table know and like one another.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The View from Europe
This is late, but here's an excerpt from a post on the blog of the EU's secretary of agriculture (that's how I interpret her role). It relates to a visit in February that she made to DC. (Her blog is interesting--she responds to the questions/comments of some of the farmers who write in.)