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Roquefort Trade War, Stimulus Buy America Brouhaha Shows WTO Model Broken

Article at Huffington Post by GTW Director Lori Wallach and Research Director Todd Tucker

   Posted: 2/2/2009

Full Entry at Huffington Post

Download Public Citizen's fact sheet on procurement policy and "Buy America" (PDF)


Two developments this week provided further illustration that the current NAFTA-WTO model of trade and globalization is fundamentally flawed.

Exhibit A: One of the most contentious issues surrounding the congressional debate on the massive stimulus bill designed to jump start the sinking U.S. economy was... a provision on "Buy America" rules for iron and steel in public works projects?! Opponents of the measure - which include some of the nation's leading offshorers of U.S. jobs, such as GE and Caterpillar - decried the plan to invest our tax dollars in the U.S. economy as a declaration of war against "free trade," and claimed that the measure was WTO-illegal. (As it turns out, on the WTO-legal business, the corporates are lying, as we show here in a detailed memo.)

Exhibit B: The Bush administration, in its final week in office, imposed tariffs of up to 300 percent on French Roquefort cheese, and extended punitive tariffs on truffles, Irish oatmeal, Italian sparkling water and foie gras. The reason? In the 1990s, the Europe Union (EU) had banned the use of artificial hormones for raising beef in response to health concerns. The Clinton administration, at the urging of giant agribusiness companies, challenged this measure at the WTO because it not only banned the chemicals' use by European farmers, but banned imports of artificial-hormone-raised beef. A WTO tribunal ordered the EU to allow in the U.S. beef, and when EU officials, under threat of a massive consumer revolt, refused, the WTO authorized the U.S. to impose retaliatory sanctions. (Canada also sought and received similar authorization.)

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