What can one say? The international trade talks - designed to help developing countries - have crashed amid mutual recriminations with everyone blaming everyone else. Even a week later it is not easy to pinpoint exactly who should shoulder most of the blame: the US because of fear of losing the support of farmers in the upcoming elections? or Europe's failure to face down its own farmers? or the reluctance of richer developing countries to accept that they too must throw something meaningful into the pot. In the end it was a tragic collective failure of will.
Maybe it is time for reflection, to go back to basics and try to figure out why rich countries, having got rid of subsidies in most other activties stubbornly cling on to them in agriculturural products even though their elimination would reduce budget deficits and free resources for more urgent uses. John Madeley gives a thoughtful response here. Why, why, why, for instance, does Switzerland, one of the richest countries in the world subsidise its farmers to the tune of 68 per cent of their incomes?