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On September 5, we launched the results of the 2017 Commitment to Development Index (CDI), which scores 27 countries on how development-friendly their policies are. This year, we include two new indicators assessing how rich-country “tariffs” (taxes on imports) and “subsidies” (payments to domestic producers) inhibit development. But which is more damaging, and therefore deserves a greater weight in the Index?
Using the approach embedded in previous CDI calculations, we calculate that tariffs may be over three times as damaging as agricultural subsidies in inhibiting developing country trade. Below, we look at how tariffs and subsidy inhibit development, and assess their respective impact.
It is often stated that developing countries are “haemorrhaging billions of dollars” of tax revenues through companies abusing transfer pricing, in particular by mispricing commodities.There is no doubt that companies can take advantage of weak regulations and enforcement, but new studies based on microdata from revenue authorities suggest the scale of revenues that might be recovered is unlikely to match up to heightened popular expectations.
Even if there were a robust and credible negative impact on wages of non-Hispanic male natives without a high school degree from low skill migrant arrivals (which there isn’t), this would not justify limiting immigration as there are better instruments to achieve the same objectives, with much less cost.
The United States is a major player in global agricultural markets. American farmers account for around 25 percent of world exports of wheat and corn, and are also among the largest producers and exporters of beef, pork, and poultry. This success is partly the result of those farmers having access to abundant land, deep financial markets, and modern technologies. But as I explore in my new book, Global Agriculture and the American Farmer: Opportunities for U.S. Leadership, it is also the result of government policies that distort markets and undermine the provision of global public goods. The poor in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the negative spillovers of these policies.
In Global Agriculture and the American Farmer, Kimberly Elliott focuses on three policy areas that are particularly damaging for developing countries: traditional agricultural subsidy and trade policies that support the incomes of American farmers at the expense of farmers elsewhere; the biofuels mandate, which in its current form can contribute to market volatility while doing little if anything to mitigate climate change; and weak regulation of antibiotic use in livestock, which contributes to the global spread of drug-resistant super bugs. While noting that broad reforms are needed to fix these problems, Elliott also identifies practical steps that US policymakers could take in the relatively short run to improve farm policies—for American taxpayers and consumers as well as for the poor and vulnerable in developing countries.
Britain just announced a new policy for trading with developing countries after Brexit. It maintains the current framework of duty free, quota free access to British markets for least developed countries. It is a good basis for the further steps we’d like to see Britain take.
A healthy US agricultural sector is critical to global food security. American farmers help keep food affordable around the world, but they also receive public assistance that too often comes at the expense of American taxpayers and consumers, as well as millions of poor farmers in developing countries. While the farm bill is not the primary vehicle for setting policy on biofuels or antibiotic use, Congress could use the legislation to advance smart policy changes that set the stage for broader reforms.