The Protection Racket

No one enjoying a pastoral scenic view would ever suspect that those statuesque cows could cause so much trouble. But thanks to them and their herders, this country's honesty is in question, our ECA program retarded, and American agriculture in danger.

Wanting to make sure that the American public appreciates not only the scenic value of American cows but their produce as well, the dairy interests pushed through an amendment to the Defense Production Act drastically restricting imports of cheese, butter, and other fats. This Anderson-Thye amendment has made a mockery of United States leadership in the movement toward free world trade, a State Department crusade since 1934.

Seventeen years ago American trade policy consisted of high tariff walls unilaterally built by protection-minded congressmen. Secretary of State Hull's Reciprocal Trade Agreements lowered those walls somewhat, and since then substantial cuts have been made. The latest effort along this line was U.S. sponsorship of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, a web of multilateral agreements set up in 1948 by which the signatories, including all ECA nations, guaranteed to lower restrictions as far as they could.

The Anderson-Thye amendment has all but torn this web apart, leaving other members of GATT with the feeling that U.S. trade policy is insincere and undependable. Already three countries, Denmark, Holland, and Canada have accused the United States at the recent GATT conference in Geneva of "impairing and nullifying" the agreement, and all that Undersecretary of State Willard Thorpe could do at the time was admit it.

The dairy interests' victory has also left its mark on the ECA. A good example is Belgium, where cheese exports to America were a main factor in the fight for self-sufficiency. The Belgian ECA program received a serious setback when the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under the Anderson-Thye amendment, had to cut cheese imports forty percent last August.

The State Department and United States allies are not alone in their suffering--a large section of American agriculture will soon have to stew in its own produce if the restrictions are not repealed Secretary Acheson explained it:

"Many of our agricultural products such as apples, citrus fruits, cotton, and tobacco depend heavily on overseas markets. The obvious step for other countries to take in meeting the United States threat to restrict their products is to impose counter-restrictions in retaliation...On balance, American agriculture will suffer from this provision."

This evidently does not interest the dairy men, nor does the ECA program nor even their own country's prestige and honesty; they, as well as the congressmen who cooperated with them, seem to be more interested in protecting their own profits. Congress would do well to make a little less noise about municipal and state-wide protection rackets and do something about its own version.