Sugaronline Editorial - Doing your homework By Meghan Sapp
Published: 07/07/2017, 2:22:00 PM
When you want to be taken seriously, you must at least use the facts.
Everyone wants to protect their market from those who would do its producers harm, it’s normal. And in a world where globalization is king, even if sometimes it seems like the world is moving backwards in terms of free trade instead of forward, making sure that domestic industries are not drowned out by uncompetitive trading practices is all the more important.
But as with everything, there are ways to go about protecting oneself and ways not to go about it. There’s the road where you gather facts and a team of lawyers then head to Geneva to fight for your market at the World Trade Organization. Then there’s the road where you slander your trade partner with dubious and wildly inaccurate information in an emotional campaign that makes you look like a spoiled child who doesn’t know how to stand up for itself using facts and arguments.
Unfortunately, it appears that the European sugar and ethanol industries may have headed down the latter road.
Earlier this week, the European sugar and ethanol industries represented by CIBE, CEFS, ePure and EFFAT launched a Twitter and media campaign demanding that no additional sugar or ethanol quota be granted to Brazil as part of the EU-Mercosur negotiations. The request is not surprising, but the slanderous alternative facts put forward arguing their position certainly is.
From accusations of Brazilian government subsidies for the sugarcane sector to the tune of US$1.8 billion per year to cross-subsidisation for the ethanol sector, the groups attacked the Brazilian sugarcane industry without a single shred of evidence. No sourcing whatsoever was included in the brazen slandering that was meant to ensure European policymakers wouldn’t allow further import quotas.
But other than a bunch of sabre rattling, there were no facts behind it. The document was apparently based on a study prepared by an individual consultant commissioned by the groups but since it wasn’t published nor was it referred to in the “campaign,” it can only be assumed that the research didn’t stand up to scrutiny. So why use this consultant rather than a recognised group like LMC who has done most of these types of studies for the sugar industry since time immemorial? One can guess it had either to do with the price tag or wanting a different answer than might be provided.
Brazil did not take the attack sitting down, however. Instead UNICA sent to each of the four associations as well as the press, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council a detailed explanation demonstrating how ethanol in reality is loss making for mills rather than a cross-subsidy, and that the wild claims about billions in subsidies may at most amount to a bit more than US$800,000 in low interest government loans.
In a world where data is easily accessible at one’s finger tips, where alternative facts are ever more common but just as closely scrutinised, it makes much more sense for those who believe they are truly at risk of being irrevocably damaged due to a trade deal to demonstrate it than to try to fluff their way through. In the end, they will just look foolish to policymakers and have an even harder time trying to prove their point.