Agriculture et libre-échange

L'année dernière n'a pas été bonne pour le libre-échange. Le cycle de Doha devait placer la question agricole au centre des négociations pour apaiser le profond mécontentement des pays en voie de développement. Mais les pays riches n'ont pas accepté d'ouvrir leurs frontières aux produits agricoles et leur protectionnisme semble avoir tué le cycle de Doha, et avec lui, potentiellement tout le système de commerce multilatéral.

L'agriculture a toujours été le principal obstacle au libre échange et à la perspective de donner aux pays pauvres une certaine maîtrise de leur destin, car c'est l'un des premiers secteurs dans lequel les règles de la concurrence sont faussées. En 2004, les pays de l'OCDE ont dépensé plus de quatre fois le montant de l'aide qu'ils consacrent officiellement au développement en subventions à leur propre agriculture. En 2000, la Banque mondiale estimait que le protectionnisme agricole des pays de l'OCDE coûtait 20 milliards de dollars en dépenses de protection sociale aux pays en développement. Il est exaspérant de constater que si l'agriculture ne joue qu'un rôle mineur et déclinant dans l'économie des pays riches, plus ils sont riches et grands, moins importantes est leur agriculture et plus ils gaspillent en subventions agricoles.

Le problème posé par le secteur agricole tient à deux éléments qui le protègent du marché mondial et transforment les hommes politiques les plus libéraux et les plus citadins qui soient en ses défenseurs intransigeants. Premièrement, l'agriculture est concentrée géographiquement et les paysans votent avant tout en fonction de la politique agricole, ce qui leur donne un poids électoral certain en comparaison de celui des consommateurs urbains.

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