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April 10, 2006

Ethanol and the Fraud of "Free Trade"

One of the most important industries in Brazil is ethanol production, an industry based on native sugar cane that supposedly delivers eight times the energy of corn-based versions and could be a major boost to Brazil's foreign trade-- except that US and European trade laws bar it:

Yet heavy import duties on the Brazilian product have limited its entry into the United States and Europe...Brazilian officials and business executives say the ethanol industry would develop even faster if the United States did not levy a tax of 54 cents a gallon on all imports of Brazilian cane-based ethanol.
How seriously can you take "free trade" rhetoric by develope countries that engages in massive protectionism against the agriculture-based products that are often the staple of most employment in poor countries?

The reality is that the US ignored intellectual property when we were a developing nation in the 19th century, but now use the sledge hammer of "free trade" rhetoric to demand enforcement of IP rights on behalf of our drug and movie companies. But even as we demand that countries like Brazil pay up to the prescription drug companies in the name of free trade, we keep out Brazil's agricultural products with protectionist borders.

So can we drop the discussion of "free trade" and just discussion how to make trade fairer for everyone, including the poor in developing nations and workers in the US?

Posted by Nathan at April 10, 2006 09:10 AM