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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The EU needs a facelift

Outrageous claims in the Indie:

"Recent photos of the EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, looking remarkably fresh-faced have sparked rumours that he may have had plastic surgery, with one commentator saying it "looks like he's overdosed on Botox". "I'd say that he's had a chemical facial peel, and he's having regular Botox. There also looks to be some sort of filler in his cheeks," said Dr Lorraine Ishak of Transform Plastic Surgery clinics."

"The famously image-conscious politician has been looking much more youthful of late, which surgeons believe could be down to a variety of procedures. It is thought that Botox jabs have softened his wrinkles; chemical peels have improved the texture of his skin and artificial fillers have fattened up his sagging cheeks. A spokesman for Mr Mandelson denied that he had undergone surgery."

In other, slightly less trivial news
, the EU is ripping itself apart in public as Sarkozy tries to back out of the trade deal which he signed up to previously.

In reality the existing EU WTO trade deal proposal is pathetically small, not frighteningly big. Let's review the facts:

- Overall, poor countries (those like Ethiopia with a GDP per capita of under £5,000 a year) face an EU tariff of 5 percent on average. This compares with an average tariff of 2.9 percent for middle income countries like Botswana (with a GDP per capita of between £5,000 and £15,000), and an average tariff of just 1.6 percent for the world’s richest countries, such as Japan.

- Some of the world’s poorest countries face even higher EU trade barriers. For example, Malawi pays an average tax of 12 percent on its exports to the EU, despite the average person having to live on less than £100 a year. Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland pay a tax of over 20 percent on their exports to the EU. Bolivia and Ecuador pay a tax of over 26 percent. This is because the goods which are most heavily taxed by the EU tend to be the goods which businesses in developing countries can produce at much lower prices than their Western competitors.

- Food tariffs are extremely high: 173% on lamb, 150% on garlic, 149% on beef, 134% on mushrooms, 118% on bananas, 114% on sugar, 103% on milk and 101% on rice.

- A study from Oxford Economic Forecasting for Open Europe found that global trade liberalisation could increase African GDP by 5.4%.

- The EU’s overall tariff rate is 2.4 percent compared to just under 1.8 percent in the US. Since the early 1990s the EU has been falling further and further behind the US.

- The cost of living, particularly food has gone up dramatically within the last year. Global food prices have jumped almost 50 percent in the past year, according to FAO.

- According to an OECD estimate for 2006, the CAP costs the EU 125 billion euros a year in higher prices and added taxes. The report also estimated that food in the EU is on average 20% above the world price.

- This hits the poor hardest because the bottom fifth of households in the UK spend 16% of their income on food - double the proportion spent by the richest fifth (7.5%)

- According to the report from Oxford Economic Forecasting, trade liberalisation will result in GDP gains for the EU of over €200 billion. In the UK, that’s an extra £1,500 a year for a household of four. According to the same report, scrapping the CAP and reforming tariffs could make the bottom 10% of earners £437 a year per person better off.

Leaving the rational arguments for a better deal aside, it is interesting the the people who always bang on about a "strong united Europe" with a "single foreign policy" are perfectly happy to tear the EU apart when it suits them. In terms of Britain's own trade policy, it's like being permanently shackled to a madman.

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