Full of surprises - George W Bush
For those who do not understand the magnitude of such a statement from such a figure, consider what agricultural subsidies cost, and who protects them. Why, just ask our esteemed trade minister, Mr Mark Vaile - "There could be significant benefits worth hundreds of billions. Oxfam says agricultural support is worth $US300 billion ($400 billion) each year." Now, how much were the organisers of Live 8 hoping to raise? Okay, that's US$300 billion tax relief to long suffering rich world taxpayers, and not a US$300 billion dollar cheque straight to Africa each year. Africa gets something far more valuable - an opportunity to step on to the first rung of development unassisted. This is a critical point - self sustainability is really the only way forward for Africa. It's been proven time and time again that aid dollars don't work. Yep, the old cliche about giving a man a fish versus teaching a man to fish applies exquisitely well to Africa's plight. Also consider that rich world consumers will also benefit from cheaper produce. The only losers will be those subsidised, rich world farmers who have become inefficient due to their being protection from the rigours of a free market. They need to sink or swim, the sooner the better. Yike, cliches are coming thick and fast. Oops, there's another one.
For Bush to call for a removal of trade barriers is, quite frankly, amazing. The farm lobby on Capitol Hill is as influential as its French cousin, if not quite so curmudgeonly, and would fight hard to maintain their protection. Having said that, for better or worse, Bush has a habit of doing what he says. If he could pull this off - abolishing agricultural subsidies in the US whilst pursuading the Europeans to do the same - he would deserve recognition as one of the great US Presidents.
I think it's more likely that this bird won't fly, sadly. Dear old France, for one, wouldn't stomach it. However, this is a very important precedent the US President has set. Good on GWB for throwing down the gauntlet to the posturing Euros. It's going to be that much harder for those who maintain and support the CAP to moralise about poverty and the underclass without looking like the filthy hypocrites they are. It also shows that GWB has a fine grasp of how to really help Africa. Forget Live 8; out of nowhere, President Bush has unleashed the first fusillade capable of scoring hits in this latest struggle against African poverty.
*I wonder if, when Bono proclaimed "We're not asking for charity. We're asking for justice!", the TV networks removed the scrolling bar urging viewers to send in their money?