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OpenMarket: Fran Smith

  • COOL Protectionism Still a Hot Issue

    November 27, 2013
    A protectionist meat labeling rule requires complicated labeling of beef, pork and poultry to indicate where the animals were born, raised, and slaughtered. Called country-of-origin labeling or COOL, the U.S. Department of Agriculture labeling scheme means that cattle from Canada moved to the U.S. for slaughtering, for example, will have to be tracked, segregated, and recorded to show that the meat is from cattle “Born in Canada, raised in Canada, and slaughtered in the U.S.” Meat products from animals born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S. would have labels indicating that.

    The rule particularly affects major U.S. trading partners, Canada and Mexico, which are part of an increasingly integrated system of meat production for those three countries. But the rule also hits domestic meat processors and...
  • Wikileaks' Latest -- Draft IP Chapter in Major Trade Agreement

    November 13, 2013
    Wikileaks has made another big splash yesterday -- not about spying, but about a multinational trade agreement currently being negotiated. Wikileaks published a draft chapter on intellectual property that is part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership  Agreement (TPP), now being negotiated with 12 countries -- Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Brunei Darussalam.

    The 95-page chapter, as a negotiating document, includes proposed provisions and language on a broad range of intellectual property issues, including copyrights, trademarks, patents, pharmaceuticals, and the Internet. The chapter also includes enforcement mechanisms for violations of the agreement. Individual countries’ initials next to the provisions or words in brackets show...
  • Enflaming, Not Enlightening: George Monbiot on Investment Treaties

    November 7, 2013
    George Monbiot in The Guardian, in his usual hyperbolic and specious way, describes the proposed U.S.-EU trade agreement’s purpose as to attack national sovereignty through a secret plot by big businesses and corporate lawyers to sue governments and overturn nations’ laws.

    Monbiot starts his diatribe by asking a set of rhetorical questions. A bit irritating, but maybe that’s his way of getting readers involved. Then comes his first substantive sentence: “The purpose of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is to remove the regulatory differences between the U.S. and European nations.”

    That is a misstatement. TTIP’s purpose is to promote freer trade between two of the largest...
  • Corporate Culture Makes a Difference -- In Business and in Baseball

    October 31, 2013
    Last night the Boston Red Sox won the World Series after coming back from a worst-place season in 2012. Their 6-1 defeat of the St. Louis Cardinals capped a remarkable turnaround that resulted from a mix of a new coach, a blockbuster trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers, seven free-agent acquisitions, and a “culture of excellence.” Sabermetrics undoubtedly played its important role, as it does for almost every ball club. But to a player, they created and bought into a team spirit that maximized their talent to reach their goal – and had fun doing it.

  • FTC Likely to Approve Office Depot, Office Max Merger

    October 21, 2013
    According to news sources, the Federal Trade Commission is likely to approve the merger of Office Depot and OfficeMax, the second- and third-largest office supply megastores. After reviewing the antitrust implications of the proposed merger, news reports said, the agency is expected to rule the merger would not substantially lessen competition and decrease consumer choice.

    The Wall Street Journal noted:
    The FTC's views are a signal that the agency believes the market has changed in the 16 years since the commission in 1997 won a court ruling that blocked the would-be merger of Staples Inc. and Office Depot. At the time, the FTC argued the earlier proposed deal would harm retail...
  • Sugar Policy Drives Out Candy Companies

    October 21, 2013

    “Cheaper sugar sends candy makers abroad” says a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal (gated). The article noted that increasingly U.S. candy makers are moving their production to other countries because federal price supports keep domestic sugar prices way above the world market price.

    Candy companies, such as Atkinson Candy Co., said it moved 80 percent of its production to Guatemala. “It wasn’t like we did it for profit reasons. We did it for survival reasons,” said the president of the family-owned Texas company. And confectioners aren't the only ones affected by high sugar prices. Besides candy makers, general food producers feel the crunch of high sugar prices, as sugar is an ingredient in breads and baked goods, many canned and preserved fruits and vegetables, and...

  • House to Consider Separate Food Stamp Bill Later Today

    September 19, 2013
    H.R. 3102, the “Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013’’ will be considered on the House floor later today. The 109-page bill, which would take steps to reform the $80 billion per year food stamp and nutrition programs, is being considered on its own, separate from agricultural titles.

    Recent background for this story is necessary. Food stamp programs have traditionally been included in farm bills – those omnibus bills that every five years hand out the largess that every farm product receives from taxpayers’ funds. This year’s farm bill was no different. Both the Senate and the House voted on farm bills that included both elements. The Senate passed its legislation on June 10, 2013. But the outcome in the House was a lot different: On June 20, 2013, the $940 billion farm bill was killed on a 195...
  • Taxpayers Pay High Costs for Crop Insurance Subsidies

    September 13, 2013
    Bloomberg on September 9 published an in-depth article on the high costs of federal crop insurance – likely to be increased even more if the House version of a proposed farm bill gets passed. The article noted that last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture spent $14 billion insuring farmers against losses due to crop failure or income. Proposed House legislation would up that to cover so-called “shallow losses” – that would guarantee up to 90 percent of a farmer’s income.

    It’s estimated that U.S. taxpayers fund about 60 percent of the premiums farmers pay. And there are no caps on those crop insurance subsidies, which encourages farmers to plant on unproductive land, take higher risks, and claim losses. The names of the crop insurance recipients are also not...
  • New USTR Discusses Trade Agenda, How U.S. and EU Can Address Divergent Regulatory Regimes

    July 30, 2013
    At a forum this morning hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the new U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, discussed the next steps in the U.S. trade agenda. The Chamber’s president, Tom Donohue, opened a wide-ranging dialogue with Froman and then took written questions from the audience.

    Froman focused on progress on the two main trade agreements that the U.S. is negotiating -- the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). (See CEI’s official comments on...
  • Farm Bill Bloat Should Be Voted Down

    July 11, 2013
    Today, CEI sent a letter to the House of Representatives urging a vote against the farm bill, H.R. 2642. The letter pointed out that the bloated bill is the one voted down when it was connected to the food and nutrition provisions, with an important addition that would make this legislation permanent.

    Now that it is being considered separately, the agriculture leadership is trying to push it through under a closed rule with no amendments. By making it permanent law, the bill would leave in place huge subsidies for areas such as crop insurance and no reform of the sugar and dairy programs.

    Here’s what the letter said:
    Besides greatly expanding the heavily subsidized crop insurance program, the House bill does nothing to rein in the central planning schemes represented by the...


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