Over the last few years, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have expended considerable ink and paper pillorying U.S. cotton farmers for allegedly “impoverishing” cotton farmers in Africa.
According to the articles and editorials, farm program payments to wealthy cotton farmers have increased cotton acres in the United States, pushing world cotton prices lower, especially for African growers.
Why farmers in cotton producing countries like Benin, Chad, Mali and Burkina Faso deserve more consideration than those in Brazil or Bolivia is something of a mystery until you consider the media campaign orchestrated by OxFam International, a London-based charity group.
OxFam has spent considerable time and money condemning agricultural subsidies paid out by European Union and U.S. governments as responsible for many of the world's ills, but especially for poverty in Africa.
The fact that cotton production had been declining in the United States until 2004 or that doing away with those subsidies could impoverish farmers in the EU and the United States doesn't seem to matter to OxFam or the editorial writers of the Times and the Journal.
But there's another mystery involving the Times and Journal: Why the two publications have been mostly silent about the potential job loss for textile workers in many of the world's poorer countries?
Trade groups from 54 countries have been demanding a delay in the Jan. 1 expiration of the world's textile and apparel quotas. The Global Alliance for Fair Textile Trade says the WTO must act to avert the total domination of the world textile market by the People's Republic of China.
Most U.S. farmers know that U.S. textile manufacturer groups have filed safeguard petitions to try to slow the onslaught of Chinese products into the U.S. market since quotas for many categories of products were eliminated under China's WTO accession agreement.
What's less known is the potential plight of textile workers in developing countries that face the loss of their jobs if China continues to push those manufacturers out of the markets in the United States and Europe.
Industry analysts say that 7 million Bangladeshi workers alone could lose their jobs if China continues to grab off greater chunks of the U.S. market. This is in a country where other jobs are scarce unless you count manning the help desk of U.S. information technology companies.
There could be several reasons the national media have been largely silent about these potential job losses. One is that many of the U.S. retailers fighting the safeguard petitions and the attempts to delay the quota expirations are based in New York.
Another is that China, which would have to find other outlets for dumping its surplus textile production if the safeguard petitions are approved, has become a major investor in the U.S. financial markets, which are also based in New York.
Of course, neither of those concerns are supposed to matter to independent newspapers like the Times and the Journal. Or do they?
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