Princeton Lyman Interview (2006): Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

A Strategic U.S. Approach to Africa: Conversation with Princeton N. Lyman, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; by Harry Kreisler; February 16, 2006

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Economic Development

Another problem is the problem of trade, because Africa has to be brought in to the international economy so that all boats rise together. What are we doing there, and what should we be doing?

One of the important questions, when we talk in the report about increasing aid, is the problem of aid dependency. We had quite a bit of discussion in the task force about this, and you'll notice there's a dissent from one of the task force members on the fact that we even supported the increase in foreign aid; he said no, there's too much foreign aid.

There is a good case to be made for it. Jeffrey Sachs has made this case, and others, that you can use aid very effectively for important investments. But a lot of countries in Africa already get half their budgets in foreign aid. So the question is, how do you move out of aid dependency? You do that through real growth, and as you said, integration into the world economy, and then you get to trade.

The world trading system is very biased against agricultural producers in the developing world. This is now the major issue in the current round of trade talks, and the African states have come together for the first time, pooled their votes, teamed up with India, Brazil, and others, and said to the United States and Europe, "You've got to open these doors to us. The agricultural subsidies, the tariffs, etc., are keeping us from moving out of aid dependency and into the world market." Now, will all the African countries be able to do it? No. Some are going to have good opportunities and others are not, but that's a major step toward putting Africa into the world economy.

You have the figure in the report that the E.U. and U.S. spend $350 billion for trade protection each year ...

In agriculture.

In agriculture. The bottom line is there -- price supports and other tariffs -- to keep American farmers happy.

Keep our prices lower on the world market, which undercuts the price for Africans, and keeps out imports of agricultural products. The World Bank finds most of these subsidies to be trade-distorting. We've lost a case in the World Trade Organization on our cotton subsidies; Congress is now faced with trying to get rid of them. But it's a tough domestic issue, as you know, to go to a farm state senator and say, "For the sake of Africa we have to cut back on these subsidies." That brings me back to the point: is Africa important and why is it important? Then we have to say, "what do we do about our whole agricultural system that is holding a big part of the world down?"

Here the problem is, as you're suggesting, elections. But it's also a crime that the Europeans are guilty of, and maybe even more so ...

If anyone's worse than us, it's Europeans. No, on this one they are [worse], and the U.S. position on this is, "We'll move if the Europeans move." This is a very tough issue for the Europeans, France in particular, and some of the other countries in Europe, but they have a heavier amount of subsidies than we do.

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