Friday, October 28, 2005

Living Landscapes or Living Museums?

This is a Travel Geographer Blog only postThe link above is to the following article in the International Herald Tribune about French resistance to international trade liberalization efforts because they threaten its highly subsidized
agricultural industry. And, of course, the French "have a relationship with food that is not the same in other European Union countries. We have a culture of good eating, which we treasure" (from the article). Although the article does not mention tourism, this is just as much a tourism/leisure/recreation story as is the NPR item I posted here recently on similar resistance to agricultural trade talks in Switzerland.

The bigger question, as I see it is, one of tourism/leisure/recreation (through cultural museumization) vs rural poverty in the world's developing economies. By locking out agricultural products from developing countries, the developed world (1) has created a lopsided agricultural economy in which governments pay farmers to produce products that are sold below the actual cost of their production; (2) has prevented farmers in less developed economies from gaining access to markets in which they could receive a fair price for the products they produce, thereby keeping many of them impoverished.

Tourism is a subtext through both of these impacts. The subsidized rural landscape, especially in Europe, is a major domestic and international tourist destination, as are the penalized rural landscapes of the developing world.

I would guess that these are major consideration in the trade talks, though I think they are sometimes less than explicitely stated for most casual new readers. It creates a situation of comparing apples (tourism) and oranges (agriculture) -- or maybe tangerines and tangelos: how to separate the two is not clear. (A colleague commented on my Switzerland post that Europe has taken the approach in global trade talks that agriculture in Europe is as much tourism as it is agricultural economics. )

Here is the link, and the opening paragraphs to the IHT article:

In France, the power of 'terroir'
By Thomas Fuller International Herald TribuneSUNDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2005

(PARIS) Blame it on the cheese, the wine and foie gras. Blame it on the country homes that so many people in France travel to on weekends.

To hear it from Claude Soudé, an official of France's National Farmers' Union, the French fondness for the "terroir," the mythical landscape of farms and the men and women who tend to them, is one reason that French politicians are putting up such a big fight in the global trade talks.

The position of France and its allies - Italy, Poland, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, among them - could sink the World Trade Organization negotiations that are scheduled for December in Hong Kong.

The premise of these negotiations is that rich countries like the United States, France and Germany should lower their trade barriers in agriculture if poorer countries like Brazil, Nigeria and China further open their markets for goods and services.

The deal is in jeopardy because of fierce resistance by France to any more concessions in agriculture.