Nature Of International Commodity Agreements

11/04/2021

There is a great gap between the principles underlying these provisions and the harsh realities of the agreements that were actually negotiated in the post-war period. The U.S.S.R. continues to vote on the international sugar agreement and the international wheat agreement as an exporting country, although the dynamism of international trade is such that it has recently become a major net importer of both countries. In the present circumstances, the United States, although not itself a member of the ITA, is in fact setting a ceiling for international tin prices by regulating the rate at which tin disposals are produced from that country`s strategic stocks. In the case of wheat, too, the international market was less dominated by IWA than by the oligopolistic pricing practices of the Canadian Wheat Board and the U.S. Commodity Credit Corporation. The membership of a large number of nations in the current international agreements on raw materials can only complicate administrative and decision-making processes, whereas in at least one case – the UK`s decision not to side with the 1953 IWA – the absence of a major wheat-importing country could have had a beneficial effect in moderating the exercise of oligopolistic power. (2) Reasonably stable market share. Since export quotas generally distribute markets in proportion to national shares over a given reference period, difficulties arise when there are sudden or longer-term changes in the shares held by different producing countries. The gradual ouster of U.S. raw cotton by exports from other countries, reinforced by the development of synthetic fibres, prevented the negotiation of an international cotton agreement in the post-war period and the increase in the volume of exports from African countries seriously complicated the negotiations of the 1962 International Coffee Agreement.

Alternatives. Various efforts have been made to invent mechanisms other than international commodity agreements, to transfer purchasing power to less developed countries whose incomes have been cyclically or chronically depressed. Some of these alternatives, such as commodity reserve currency proposals (United Nations, 1964a), would serve the objectives of foreign aid and international monetary “reform” to undermine the role of the price system as the main instrument of economic management in (relatively) free enterprises. Others acting through covert financial transfers (United Nations, 1964 b); Swerling 1964), the great advantage is that the price system, as a leader in economic resources, is not affected to a large extent. Finally, the International Monetary Fund has acted – albeit with great restraint and after some delay (Fleming – Lovasy 1960) – to provide an additional tranche (a quarter of the country`s IMF ratio) to compensate for the export revenue deficits of less developed countries when these deficits occur for reasons not under the control of the country suffering from balance-of-payments difficulties (International Monetary Fund 1963). Such an approach has the important advantage of taking into account fluctuations in export volume rather than reacting solely to fluctuations in commodity prices. Historically, U.S. policy on international commodity agreements has been marked by some ambivalence.

Until recently, it has only participated in agreements that are of interest to the United States, particularly the international wheat agreement. Even in the case of sugar (where the United States remains a net importer), it has acted more in a producer than among consumers; Too large a gap between domestic and foreign prices would embarrass the continuation of the national sugar control system.

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