The United Nations (UN) has called for $5.6 billion in donations to fight a famine that threatens over 20 million people in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. In Nigeria alone, upwards of 5 million people face acute food shortages.
In a country of over 170 billion people, there are fewer than 5,000 tractors.
Considering the progress Nigeria has made in food security since the 1980s, the country’s placement on the list is disheartening. While the UN’s efforts might bring temporary relief, the root causes of this famine must be addressed to prevent similar crises in the future. Boko Haram might be partly responsible for this crisis, but the reality is that Nigeria’s famine is worsened by protectionist policies that restrict agricultural trade and force Nigerians to depend on insufficient domestic food production.
Restricted Food Imports
In 1983, Nigeria averaged less than 2,000 calories per person per day. By 1998, Nigeria had caught up to the global average of over 2,630 calories. However, food production has dropped in recent years because Nigerian agriculture is stuck in the past. In a country of over 170 billion people, there are fewer than 5,000 tractors. Traditional small scale farming permeates the food production In Nigeria. Small plots a couple of hectares in size account for 90 percent of domestic food production. With a growing population, such small-scale production has become insufficient.
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The Trump administration recently pressured the G20 to drop its long-standing commitment to free trade as part of its resolve to “protect America’s economic interests.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected multiple phrases emphasizing the importance of resisting protectionism in drafts of the summit’s joint language statement, signaling a major change in trade priorities from the U.S. government. Just like the Trans-Pacific Trade (TPP) withdrawal, the Trump administration’s isolationist position could be detrimental to its diplomatic influence, affect employment, and hinder international efforts against poverty.
Through protectionism and a distorted foreign policy, the Trump administration is toying with the already strained diplomatic relations with long-time allies, especially Germany and the United Kingdom. And if it continues to disagree on crucial economic issues like the G20 Free Trade Agreement (FTA), it might lead to strained relations on other fronts, like the efforts against terrorism or the nuclear disarmament of Iran and North Korea. With the latest developments to both issues, a disparity with allies is the last thing the US needs.
Instead, Washington should look at ways to strengthen economic ties instituted under the previous regime, particularly at a time when China is heavily expanding its trade network in a bid to displace the US.
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Today’s Young Voices Podcast features Young Voices Executive Director Casey Given and YV Advocate Jacob Richards on how conservative voters are increasingly anti-trade because of Trump’s rhetoric around NAFTA and free trade.
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Donald Trump claims he’ll “make America great again.” He claims that free trade and immigration have lead to widespread job losses and economic turmoil for Americans. These are the signature policies of his campaign, but the evidence just doesn’t support this view.
Americans rely on the benefits of trade everyday of their lives. The importation of low-cost goods drastically increases the purchasing power and lowers the cost of living for all Americans.
This is especially beneficial for the poor, who, according to the economists at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, gain 63 percent of their purchasing power from low cost imports. The prices of the goods consumed by the poor fall more than goods consumed by the wealthy. Imposing high tariffs on these goods would have devastating effects on their ability to survive.
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In light of Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, here’s a humble suggestion. Obama should create a charter city in Guantanamo Bay. A charter city would accomplish two of Obama’s goals. First, it would show Cubans the power of capitalism, improving the lives of those who move to the city. Second, it would provide a pretext for closing the Guantanamo naval base, long a stain on America’s human rights record.
Charter cities are the brainchild of Paul Romer. The idea is to import good institutions like the rule of law, private property, and economic freedom, into countries which currently lack them. A charter is created between the host country, Cuba in this case, and a developed country, America. The charter allows the use of American laws and regulations, which are more conducive to economic development than Cuba’s.
Read the rest on The Daily Caller, here.