Rest easy, Bob Zoellick’s on the job


Like Eric Clapton, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick is a god.

One day he’s in Paris talking ag trade with his buddies in the World Trade Organization’s G-5; the next day he’s in Mauritius talking ag trade with the less-than-buddy G-90.

Bold defender. Then, in a brief visit to Washington, he cracks Congressional knuckles to push passage of the pending U.S.-Australian free trade deal, boldly defends CAFTA for Cargill and other poor ag trans-nationals, and finally – as always – plots how to get a WTO ag trade deal done by the July 31 deadline.

And all that just one month after Brazil used his wispy mustache to wipe the world clean of U.S. cotton subsidies.

How does he keep it all straight? Well, he’s a god. Can mere mortals – like, say, you – make any sense of it? Of course you can – with our help.

G is for great. Let’s begin by looking into who those “Gs” are and what they want. In brief, “G” is global shorthand for Group, as in Group of 5, 20 or 2,472.

Inside the WTO, however, members often substitute other “G” words to better describe the actual function of each group.

For instance, the G-5 is really the Gestalt-5. Gestalt is a German word that means an organized whole perceived as more than the sum of its parts.

Since the G-5 is composed of Brazil, the European Union, India, the U.S. and Australia (actually Australia represents the Cairns Group, an offshoot of the bushy WTO family tree), gestalt is perfect. The G-5 is bigger than the sum of its parts. Just ask them.

Yet two parts of its whole, the U.S. and the EU, are bigger parts of the whole part and they pretty much tell the other parts what part any WTO ag trade proposal will become the part their part wants.

(Don’t worry if this doesn’t track. Bob Zoellick understands it.)

Friend or foe? This all makes sense if you remember that the G-5 is your only real friend at the WTO. Yes, India wants your cotton acres and Brazil wants your bean acres. And, sure, Australia is mad for your beef industry and the EU, well, it always mad and always wants something.

But these guys are your buds because when the utopian WTO completes its utopian ag trade deal – in utopia, remember, there are no farm support programs – it’s entirely probable that you will be first in line to buy Australian beef, Indian blue jeans, Brazilian beans and European whatever.

And that’s a good thing because you’ll want to eat.

On to the G-20. Conversely, the G-20, sometimes referred to as the Gatecrasher-20 because they crashed the big WTO love fest in Cancun last year (causing it to run out of booze early, which sent everyone home surly) is not your friend.

The G-20, home to up-and-comers China, India and Brazil, also want your farm and ranch production. The G-20 thinks that just because it holds 1.5 billion of the world’s 1.8 billion farmers it should receive special treatment.

Like a bigger piece of the global ag pie.

The simple truth is they simply don’t understand that American farmers will use their $3,000-an-acre land, their $125,000 tractors, their multi-billion-dollar industrialized livestock sector and their gazillion-dollar biotechnology to bury the Gatecrashers in $1.50 corn, $2 wheat, $30 hogs and $50 cattle.

And the American farmers and ranchers will; for a couple of years, anyway.

When it comes to the G-90, alternatively known as the Gadfly-90, well, forget about ’em because they actually believe the Doha Ag Development Round should address the ag trade concerns of developing nations.

Since most G-90 folks speak English as a second language, it’s easy to see how they get confused.

As far as your overall WTO plan, we suggest you do what the U.S. textile industry did in the last round of global trade talks: beg for 15 years to phase in global freedom to farm, then wave your jobs good-bye.

And stop worrying. After all, Bob Zoellick, the god, is on the job and in 15 years you’ll be retired.

(The author is a freelance ag journalist who lives in Delavan, Ill. He can be reached via e-mail at: Read his columns online at

© 2004 ag comm


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Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children.