Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Harper hoping WTO kills wheat board for him

Remember how Harper was trying to stack the Canadian Wheat Board? Well, the farmers weren't buying it; they voted strongly in favour of directors who back the single-desk system. But Frances Russell warns that Harper may get what he wants anyway, courtesy of the World Trade Organization:

Harper has an out. He can abandon his dirty tricks campaign against the CWB and still "walk over" democracy by turning to the World Trade Organization. The WTO's Doha Round, if it survives, is more than prepared to dispatch the pesky marketing agency for him.

The day after the CWB director elections, Crawford Falconer, New Zealand's WTO ambassador and agricultural chair, released a new text that would declare the CWB illegal in 2013, the deadline for a new agreement.

The CWB is isolated at the WTO. The former Australian government abolished the world's only other single-desk wheat board. And the WTO draft text contains a footnote exempting New Zealand's kiwi fruit exporting agency from the CWB's fate.

Dustin Gosnell, the CWB's director of strategic planning and corporate policy, says the WTO "is one step closer to cementing language that would cause us to lose the single desk and how it's happening is really most discouraging. It's really the chair railroading it through."

National Farmers Union president Stewart Wells says the WTO is a "most undemocratic organization." Canada isn't even in most of the meetings involving agriculture. They are dominated by the U.S., European Union, Argentina and Brazil.

From the Winnipeg Free Press. I find it particularly galling that the Kiwis want to nail the CWB, but want to protect their own analogous agency. Not to mention the fact that Harper probably isn't even going to bring this up with the WTO.

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