WTO rules aainst USA CoOL on meat

20/05/2015

The World Trade Organisation has ruled that labels on red meat in the United States that say where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered will have to be dropped or revised.

The office of the U.S. Trade Representative said the WTO has rejected a final U.S. appeal, deciding that the U.S. “country of origin” labels put Canadian and Mexican livestock at a disadvantage.

The Obama administration had previously revised labels to try to comply with WTO obligations. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said that if the WTO ruled against the final U.S. appeal, Congress will have to weigh in to avoid retaliation – such as extra tariffs – from the two neighbour countries. . .

Though the ruling went against the U.S., it’s a victory for the U.S. meat industry, which has said the labels are burdensome. Meat processors quickly called for repeal of the labelling laws after the WTO decision.

Canada and Mexico issued a joint statement calling on the United States to repeal the labelling rules and saying they will seek authorization from the WTO to take retaliatory measures against U.S. exports.

The joint statement of Canadian and Mexican agriculture and trade officials said the rules cause Canadian and Mexican livestock and meat to be segregated from those of U.S. origin. The labeling is “damaging to North America’s supply chain and is harmful to producers and processors in all three countries,” the officials said. . .

I don’t support compulsory Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) but I don’t understand why labels which give consumers information on which they might want to base their purchases has been disallowed.


USA fracking helps NZ dairying

31/10/2013

Tweet of the day:

Federated Farmers@FedFarmers 46m

Fracking will mean the United States will be energy self-sufficient that will make the US dairy Industry uncompetitive. ..good news that!

We like good news for dairying in #gigatownoamaru .


USA shut down

01/10/2013

An impasse between the USA’s  Republican House and Democrat Senate has shut down the government:

. . . Shortly before midnight, the White House budget office issued a memo instructing agencies to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations.”

The impasse means 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed Tuesday. National parks, monuments and museums, as well as most federal offices, will close. Tens of thousands of air-traffic controllers, prison guards and Border Patrol agents will be required to serve without pay. And many congressional hearings — including one scheduled for Tuesday on last month’s Washington Navy Yard shootings — will be postponed.

In a last-minute ray of hope for active-duty troops, Congress on Monday approved and sent to the White House an agreement to keep issuing military paychecks. But Obama warned that the broader economy, which is finally starting to recover from the shocks of the past six years, would take a substantial hit if congressional gridlock shutters “America’s largest employer.” . .

If our government shut down the rest of the world might not notice but what happens in the USA will have an international impact.

It’s already boosted our dollar.

The New Zealand dollar held its gains against the greenback on speculation a prolonged US government shutdown and an more weighty debate about the debt ceiling this month will sap demand for US dollars.

The kiwi traded at 83.04 US cents at 5pm in Wellington, holding its gains through the day from 82.84 cents late yesterday. The trade-weighted index was at 77.32, up from 77.19 the previous day.

It went past midnight in Washington, with no apparent agreement between the White House and Republicans, meaning the White House Office of Management and Budget would have ordered state agencies to begin shutting down services the government can’t pay for. A bigger threat is this month’s
deadline to lift the US$16.7 trillion debt ceiling or face possible default on debt payments. . .

There’s been several positive announcements on the New Zealand economy this week and expectations of reasonable growth.

But no matter how well we’re doing here, we’re not big enough to counter major problems in the rest of the world.

 


Independence Day

04/07/2012

Happy Independence Day to the USA.

This time last year we were in New York and watched the Macy’s fireworks display from the deck of the aircraft carrier, now museum, Intrepid.

Walking back to our hotel we serendipitously wandered into Don’t Tell Mama which served delicious food.

 


US dairy offer not up to scratch – Groser

07/06/2012

Trade Minister Tim Groser says the USA is yet to produce an acceptable offer on dairy access in Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks.

Despite two years of formal negotiations, he says, the US is yet to produce anything of substance on the dairy market, the biggest prize for New Zealand in the TPP.

“We are not going to sign up to a deal that doesn’t improve the export position of our principal exports,” he says. “We will wait and play our cards in the endgame.”

The USA dairy lobby must have strength far in excess of its numbers to keep negotiations stalling on the issue of access for our produce.

Any benefit to the relatively small number of them from protection comes at the cost of higher prices and less choice for many millions of consumers.


C’mon Black

16/09/2011

Russia scored first in their first Rugby World Cup game last night but my pick the USA finished ahead.

Tonight of course I’m backing black though if Japan was playing anyone else but New Zealand I’d be tempted to opt for them.

Blokes who are men enough to call themselves the Blossoms deserve support.


USA does deal

01/08/2011

USA  leaders have done a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

Congressional leaders of both parties and President Obama said they have agreed to a framework for a fiscal deal that they will present to their caucuses Monday morning, moving Congress closer to taking up a measure that could pass both the House and Senate with bipartisan support and be signed by President Obama, averting a fiscal calamity.

The two Senate leaders, Harry Reid of Nevada and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, announced the agreement on the Senate floor and President Obama a few moments later. He indicated he would support it, although it was not his preferred approach.

“It will allow us to avoid default,” he said.

The threat of the USA defaulting on its debt was never very real, but even so this is good news for not only the USA but all the other countries whose economies are intertwined with it.


Friends, allies, partners

24/07/2011

Under past administrations a lot of energy went in to deciphering the nuances in pronouncements on the relationship between the United States and New Zealand, particularly the difference between being friends and allies.

But that no longer matters. After yesterday’s press conference with Barack Obama and John Key, we’re officially partners:

He said he was very pleased that the relationship with New Zealand was “growing stronger by the day.”

He also said: “I’ve always been stuck by the intelligence and thoughtfulness
that the Prime Minister brings to his work.”

. . .  Mr Obama made mention of the fact that the two foreign ministers – Hillary
Clinton and Murray McCully – were in Bali together at the ASEAN Regional Forum
and were looking at further ways to work together from “green growth to trying
to standardise regulations to increase the flow of trade”.

“And throughout this process whether it’s in Apec settings, now the East Asia
summit, we’ve always found New Zealand to be an outstanding partner.

“And Prime Minister Keys personally has always been an outstanding partner on
these issues.”

Given the difficulties the President is facing with the economy and the a senate unwilling to back his plans for recovery, the Prime Minister’s visit would not have been a high priority.

But we have much to gain in trade and security by a closer relationship with the United States and the meeting was another positive step towards that.

Apropos of the visit, in his speech to the Washington Chamber of Commerce, the PM said that:

 . . . while the US and New Zealand economies have many differences, we also have a lot in common.

At the most basic level, we share a commitment to the democratic, capitalist system.

Our governments are freely elected. Our economies encourage enterprise, hard work, and innovation. We trust people to get on with their lives and make the best choices for themselves. We also both understand the importance of world-class education.

For these reasons, our countries are amongst the most sought after places to live, raise families, and do business.

 He also noted that the US has contributed about 10% of the $90 million rasied for the Canterbury earthquake appeal.


Unity gives power

04/07/2011

It’s July 4th here but still yesterday in the USA so I’m getting in early in wishing them a happy Independence Day.

When I was studying in Spain I was bemused by the Anti-Americanism among many of my fellow students who came from all parts of the world.

A lot of it seemed to be based on envy of its power. One day I said to the Europeans, it was the united bit which gave the USA its power and that Europe could be as powerful if they provided a united front.

“But,” one replied, “They have many states under one government, we have many countries, each with an independent government,. The European Union provides economic unity but we’ll never be able to provide a really united front.”


Happy Independence Day

04/07/2010

Happy Independence Day to the USA and the Phillipines.

 


Getting the measure of metrics

26/08/2009

Britain’s move to metrics upset some people so much they formed the Imperial Measures Preservation Society. They still drive in miles but seem to have adjsuted to other metric measures. The USA, however, still refuses to make the change.

 

I can’t understand why a country which has had decimal currency for centuries can’t contemplate ditching the complicated system of imperial measurements in favour of the relative simplicity of metrics.

 

July 10 1967, the day on which decimal currency was introduced is a date still fixed in my mind. This was partly due to the success of the advertising campaign which preceded it but mostly a reflection on the great relief with which I was able to close the door on old money.

 

I was 10 at the time and had already spent too long struggling over arithmetic lessons (we didn’t do maths back then) in which we were called on to do convoluted sums with pounds, shillings and pence to have any regrets about the change.

 

I can’t recall when weights and measures went metric but I shed no tears when grams, metres and litres replaced ounces, yards and pints.

 

I was never sure if it was 16 ounces in a pound and 14 pounds to the stone or the other way round and I was even more uncertain about the number of pints in a gallon. I generally got the figures relating to inches in feet and feet in yards right but struggled with conversions to miles or acres and computations concerning any of them were a nightmare.

 

When even one as mathematically challenged as I am can understand the logic of a system based on 10, those wishing to retain imperial measures haven’t a leg to stand on numerically speaking. However, I have some sympathy with them on linguistic grounds because even though we’ve been metric for years a miss is still as good as a mile but it will never be as good as a kilometre.

   

If I look after the cents the dollars may look after themselves but I still like to have my tuppence worth and while I might be in for a penny in for a pound, the decimal equivalent doesn’t trip off my tongue so lightly.

 

It’s not only expressions like these which don’t convert easily to modern measures. It is generally simple to calculate with metrics but it isn’t so easy to converse in them. I can follow recipes in metric or imperial measures but I still refer to a pound of butter rather than 500 grams and if I could still get a bottle of milk I’d call it a pint not 600 mls.

 

If you told me the day’s temperature in Fahrenheit I wouldn’t be sure whether to reach for my long johns or the sunscreen. If you asked me how to bake biscuits I’d probably suggest 350 degrees although I can bake with imperial and metric recipes.

 

Too many sorry mornings on the bathroom scales have enabled me to recognise my own weight in both stones and kilos but I’m not sure how big babies are unless they are weighed in pounds.  

 

I can understand the area of a farm in hectares but still talk about a thousand acre voice or stride. Similarly, while I might not be able to do anything worthwhile with a piece of four by two and a length of number eight wire they are still a lot more useful figuratively speaking than their metric equivalents.

 

So when I gauge myself against a linguistic yardstick I’m only slightly ahead of the imperial luddites. I might have the measure of metrics but I’m not prepared to go the extra kilometre by conversing in them.


Dairy subsidies to cost NZ $122m

27/06/2009

Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson got a lot of attention for his piece in the Wall Street Journal on milking trade subsidies.

Perhaps he should follow that up with an invoice because the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has calculated that the subsidies on dairy products introduced by the EU and USA will cost the New Zealand economy $122 million.

New Zealand’s dairy output may fall by around 5% and the value of milk, butter and cheese exports could decline some 8% as American and European subsidies create an oversupply of product, according to the NZIER’s latest Insight newsletter. The think-tank predicts the global economy will be worse off by around US$41 million, although countries such as Japan and Korean would benefit from lower world prices.

The prospect of lower dairy prices “will cause kiwi farmers’ incomes to fall below where they would otherwise have been, through no fault of their own,” said the institute’s deputy chief executive John Ballingall. “The risk of ongoing retaliation between the U.S. and EU, and potentially others, could lead to larger increases in subsidies, tariffs and other trade barriers over time.”

The immediate impact of the subsidies was partially responsible for the decrease in Fonterra’s forecast payout for the new season.

The threat of ongoing retaliation, bigger subsidies, tariffs and other trade barriers is even more concerning. It will hinder the recovery and hamper progress towards freer trade.

The NZIER Dairy Insight newsletter is here.


Meat prices positive but costs up too

15/06/2009

 Westpac and National Bank forecasts both paint a positive picture for meat in the next couple of years.

The only threat to meat prices appears to be the exchange rate, but the National Bank, in its Rural Report publication, said there was no reason the New Zealand dollar should stay high given the country’s high debt, large and ongoing current account deficit, and low to no economic growth.

It forecast two years of easing to about US49c before increasing to US60c.

Lamb prices have defied predictions of doom even in the face of a relatively high dollar, partly because of a drop in the ovine population after droughts in Australia and here. The large number of dairy conversions in the past couple of seasons have also led to steep falls in sheep numbers.

While supply has dropped, demand has been steady or risen.

The reports say the sheep meat industry should enjoy good conditions for two more years at least.

The reasons behind this season’s high prices – low lamb numbers, a weak pound against the Euro making UK lamb exports viable, and strong retail sales – should remain.

Farmers would also benefit from meat companies competing for lamb.

Some commentators were expecting a decrease in dining out as the recession bites to dampen demand for lamb but it appears any drop in orders from resaturants has been more than compensated for by increased sales at supermarkets as people rediscover the joys of home cooking.

Beef prices are a little more uncertain although reduced numbers after a big kill in the USA last season and on-going drought in Argentina will impact on supply.

Prices are only one half of the business equaiton and while they have gone up so too have costs.

Meat and Wool Economic Services survey of sheep and beef farm input prices show on-farm costs in the past year went up by 7.6% in the past year.

The biggest rise was in fertiliser which went up 33.8%;local body rates increased 5.6%; interest rates dropped by 6.7% and fuel prices dropped 14.2%.

The overall cumulative on-farm inflation for the five years to March 2009 was 32.2% and over 10 years on-farm inflation rose 50.4%

That compares with consumer prices which increased by 16% over five years.

If interest is excluded the underlying rate of on-farm inflation in the past year was was 10.7 per cent compared with 9.8 per cent for the previous year.

dairy 10003


BBC World Food Price Index

02/06/2009

The BBC World Service has been tracking food prices in seven major cities to create a World Food Price Index.

Reporters started making a weekly record of five basic food items in July last year. The basket of goods was normalised to 100 and subsequent changes in prices are measured against that to show rises and falls.

Bread, milk, potatoes, eggs and beef were the products chosen in Brussels, Buenos Aires, Moscow and Washington DC; onions, rice, ground flour, lentils and milk were priced in Delhi; in Jakarta it was eggs, rice, sugar, flour and cooking oil; and in Nairobi it was green maize, milk, maize flour, bread and tomatoes.

Some interesting points in the analysis:

In Brussels prices were fairly flat. The price of milk fell because of a price war between supermarkets but the change wasn’t as great as the fall in price paid to dairy farmers.

In Argentina the price of potatoes, bread and beef were steady but the latter was due to export taxes which resulted in farmers reducing production of beef in favour of better paying produce and the country may have to import meat.

Inflation has hit food prices in India where the price of wheat, rice and other grains has risen by 12%,  fruit and vegetables gained 8.5% and the price of milk rose 6.4% and the price of sugar nearly tripled.

Religious factors influence food prices in Jakarta with a rise in the price of chicken and meat at the end of the Muslim month of fasting. The price of rice has fallen and the government it delaying exports because of this.

Russian food prices increased nearly 10 times more than prices in the European Union.

The biggest rises in the four-month period were seen in prices for fruit – which spiked 17% in Russia while rising only 1.9% in Europe – and sugar, jam, honey, chocolate and confectionery goods, which jumped by 12.7% and only 1.5% in Europe.

Prices for vegetables rose by 11.6%, while fish and seafood prices were up by 9.4%.

 Russia imports nearly a third of its food and the low value of its currency is one of the reasons prices have increased.

Food shortages because of drought and political violence contributed to food shortages in Kenya.

In the USA food prices went up by 5.5% last year but falls in the price of meat and diary products are expected to result in a smaller increase this year.

World Service Average 18/05/09

Better standing on our own feet

27/05/2009

New Zealand farmers’ anger at the USA’s decision to subsidise its dairy exports is well founded.

Federated Farmers dairy section vice-chair John Bluett says:

“It’s a serious concern. The US is going to subsidise 92,000 tonnes of export product. In perspective, New Zealand only produces 105,000 tonnes, so it’s the equivalent of almost subsidising all New Zealand’s production.”

In the Waikato alone it could cost farmers $180 million and it is likely to mean a lower payout next season.

There may be a small benefit to consumers if the subsidies result in lower international commodity prices because that could flow through to lower retail prices here. But any gain will be more than cancelled out by the pain imposed on the wider economy.

However, angry as farmers are, none are calling for a return to subsidies. Hard as it is in the real world at the mercy of markets, it beats the days which Rob describes when farmers’ incomes went up and down at the whim of the government.

There’s another reminder of how bad that is at Phil Clarkes’ Business Blog:

In France, for example, some 81 dairies have been blockaded and dairy farmers have threatened a national “milk strike” if an ongoing “mediation process” fails to deliver a meaningful lift in prices.

In Germany, meanwhile, six women have gone on hunger strike, while around 6000 dairy farmers took to the streets of Berlin to demand a national milk summit.

And this week the protest headed to Brussels, with a claimed 2000 farmers from 10 member states clashing with riot police outside the EU Council building, while farm ministers discussed the market situation.

Taking what the market offers isn’t always easy, but standing on our own feet beats going cap in hands to governments as they do in Europe to find out not only what they’ll earn but also how much they can produce.

Hat Tip: QuoteUnquote


Tell your president to play by the rules too

25/05/2009

This could have been a New Zealander talking:

One of the best ways we can grow market access . . . is by enforcement. In this challenging economic climate, trading partners must play by the rules if we are going to revive our economy as a global community.

But it wasn’t. It was former Dallas Mayor, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk .

He was talking about US meat exports and is very keen on free trade if his first major policy speech, delivered last month, is anything to go by:

“Now is the time to revive global trade and to lay the groundwork for an even more robust, more open trading system in future decades,”

. . .  While some may doubt the virtue of free trade, Kirk said that more rigorous U.S. trade enforcement will ensure that other nations honor their commitments. “We will use all the tools in USTR’s toolbox to go after those trade barriers,” he said. “Stepping up trade enforcement is about opening up markets, not closing them down.”

He needs to talk to President Obama because free trade is a two way street.

It’s no use having the Trade Representative talking about how important it is for other countries to play by the free trade rules for its meat when the USA has just broken those rules by subsidising its dairy exports.


Feds talk straight to Obama

24/05/2009

Federated Farmers aren’t mucking about with their response to the USA’s reintroduction of export subsidies for dairy products.

In a media release headlined US dairy subsidies a potential catostrophe they start by inviting President Obama to New Zealand to explain why his administration has decided to subsidise 92,000 tonnes of American dairy products destined for international markets.

“I cannot express the anger I feel about today’s decision,” says Philip York, Federated Farmers economics and commerce spokesperson.

“The precedent this sets is actually worse than the European Union’s (EU) decision in January to go down the same path.

“Federated Farmers had respected American restraint from not retaliating against the EU. That has all been thrown away on the compost heap that is the US dairy lobby.

“The US dairy lobby is more interested in protecting subsidies than in exporting on free market principles. The fact President Obama caved into their demands is a genuine shock. I honestly thought the age of pork barrel politics had passed but I’m sadly mistaken.

“What’s worse is that this comes at a time when international prices for dairy commodities had started to stabilise.

“Now, from left field, comes this ludicrous decision which takes the world to the edge of trade anarchy.

“The World Trade Organisation needs to get to Washington and Brussels urgently to discuss this with the EU and the Obama administration. I know Don Nicolson, the President of Federated Farmers, will be raising this at next month’s meeting of the Cairns Group.

“This could easily set off a domino effect as smaller economies rush to follow the irresponsible ‘example’ being set by the EU and the United States. Tariffs and tit-for-tat trade barriers could depress international prices and trade volumes before spreading to other trade categories.

“The world is back to five minutes to midnight for an all out trade war and President Obama needs to get his hand off the trigger,” Mr York concluded.

That’s a very direct message.

I don’t think the chances of Obama hearing it are very high and the chances of him heeding it are even lower but no-one can accuse Feds of taking a half-hearted approach to their fight for free trade.

Hat Tip: SOLO


But they did it first

23/05/2009

The USA is reintroducing export subsidies for dairy products in a tit for tat response to the EU which reintroduced subsidies earlier in the year.

But they did it first is no way to win an argument, but that’s the excuse they’re using.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the move is in direct response to the European Union’s introduction earlier this year of export subsidies. It will allow American exporters to compete fairly, he says.

His idea of fair isn’t quite the same as mine.

At the same time, Mr Vilsack says the Obama administration remains strongly committed to a pledge at the recent G20 summit to refrain from protectionism.

He says every attempt will be made to minimise the impact on countries that do not subsidise their dairy producers.

If he wants to give up his day job he could find another writing ads for Tui.

Trade Minister Tim Groser isn’t impressed.

Dairy farmers the world over are under pressure, but this is a short-sighted response when the international dairy market has recently been showing signs of stabilising. The decision is a setback, and will be damaging to world markets.

“Export subsidy assistance will have a relatively small effect on income for US dairy farmers, and may even prove counterproductive by creating uncertainty and depressing international dairy market prices. Unsubsidised producers, like those from New Zealand, will bear the cost of these trade-distorting measures.

“I am disappointed that the United States should have followed the poor example set by the European Union when it reintroduced export subsidies in January.

“While the US and the EU may consider they are both acting within their current WTO commitments, this sends a very negative signal to other WTO members. . .

Groser says it’s not whether these measures are legal but the bad example the EU and USA are setting.

 “The long term solution is clear: we need to complete the WTO Doha Round in order to secure the elimination of agricultural export subsidies. In the meantime, restraint is needed, not a resumption of retaliatory subsidisation.

The recession will provide excuses for increased protectionism which will do little, if anything, to help producers, increase costs for taxpayers and consumers and hamper the eventual recovery.


Blessed are those who give

09/05/2009

Three acts of generosity in the last couple of days:

Julian and Josie Robertson from the USA have donated 15 major art works to the Auckland Art Gallery.

The appreciation shown by people when the Robertsons allowed 12 works from their art collection to be shown in an exhibition in Auckland and Wellington, motivated them to make this donation.

From the arts to sport – Eion Edgar donated $1 million to the New Zealand Committee when he retired as president this week.

Mr Edgar and his wife, Jan, have made several substantial philanthropic donations, notably to the New Zealand Olympic Committee, the Edgar Centre in Dunedin, the Edgar National Centre for Diabetes Research and Dunedin’s new stadium, which will be known as Forsyth Barr Stadium at University Plaza.

And from sport to farming –  Ravensdown is offering  shareholders in drought affected areas interest free, deferred payment terms on fertiliser purchases plust free technical advice.

When drought hits, fertiliser often comes out of budgets which means when it rains again pastures don’t get grow as well as they should.

This offer will enable farmers to keep up their fertiliser programmes without increasing their overdraughts.


Bad press for pigs depressing for pork farmers

30/04/2009

New Zealand pig farmers are already concerned about the impact imports of pork and associated products will have on their business and now they’re worried that swine flu will put people off bacon, ham and pork altogether.

It’s already happening in the USA where the price of pigs has fallen and  several countries have taken the opportunity the outbreak offers to impose non-tarrif barriers by banning imports from Mexico and parts of the USA.

As goNZo Freakpower  noted:

You can’t get pig flu from eating pork, but banning imports does help favour domestic interests.

But fear doesn’t worry too much about the facts and if people are worried about swine flu they might take the better safe than sorry approach to pig meat regardless of where it comes from.

The European Union Health Commission is trying to stem the tide against pork by changing the flu’s name:

“Not to have a negative effect on our industry, we decided to call it novel flu from now on,” European Union Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou told reporters in Brussels.

I don’t think that will work. Swine flu strikes me as a very appropriate name for an illness which, what ever you call it is a pig of a thing and has already given rise to a rash of jokes .

Not that it’s a laughing matter and the over reaction in Egypt where an order has been made to cull all pigs  is no joke.

It’s not going to stop the spread of the virus and while it will certainly reduce the supply of pig meat, fear of flu will also depress demand – even though there is no risk of infection from eating pork.

There’s no comfort in that for pig farmers here, but their loss may lead to gains for sheep and beef farmers. Lamb sales increased when outbreaks of BSE put people off beef and people who stop eating pork because of swine flu might turn to beef and lamb instead.


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