Friday, January 27, 2012

Officials and Trade issues - USTR and Citrus fruits

It was recently reported that grapefruit from Florida might face a ban from Europe since it consists of a grove where canker (a bacterium) exists.
"Dan Richey, president of Riverfront, said the EU doesn't allow Florida grapefruit to be shipped unless the grove is certified canker-free and the fruit is inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and no canker is found. It's becoming more and more difficult to find a grove with no canker.
"We did research and got very good results with four experts who found fruit is not a pathway to spread this disease. The rest of the world accepted it. With the EU this is purely a stalling tactic and a non-tariff trade barrier," Richey said."
This is viewed by the Citrus fruit industry n Florida as "protectionist" and imposing an unjustified technical barrier on trade. 

This blog piece wanted to highlight another point. It was also reported that the chief agricultural negotiator with the office of the USTR visited the citrus fruit producing areas in Florida to assess the situation and devise a strategy. 

"While Siddiqui told the Indian River District group he could not make promises, he said he would get the Office of the Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop more scientific data to present to the EEU to get the barriers lowered.

If that approach is unsuccessful, Siddiqui said, he could appeal to the World Trade Organization, which will examine the issue based on the scientific data and not political reasons.

"We are in tune with what their plight is and will do what we can to help their industry," Siddiqui said."

This piece highlights the active role that the trade policy strategists take in articulating and protecting domestic trade interests. It requires a high level of interaction and collaboration to effectively articulate the domestic position int he international fora. For example, in this case, the Citrus Growers association cannot represent their interests directly in the WTO. Their interests have to be represented and claimed by the U.S. National interests and local industry interests must coalesce. It is another matter that the local domestic industry interests may not necessarily be the "national interest".

 Another point highlighted here is the use of scientific data to bolster one's case in the WTO. Proving that a particular action of a member country affected local industry in violation of the WTO obligation cannot be done purely on rhetoric or legalese. It has to be backed by data and evidence of a substantial injury. This again requires immense co-ordination between local industry, experts in the field and the officials who are representing the country at the international fora. It also requires a mindset that domestic industry interests are a nation's interest. This might look obvious but may not be the case in another instance!

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