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Applying the Reagan Doctrine to Sugar Policy

(Chuck Muth) – In a recent press release, the free-market organization Club for Growth – for which I have the greatest respect and admiration – unfairly criticized Rep. Ted Yoho’s proposed resolution (HCR 39) which urges Congress to adopt a global negotiating strategy in which the United States would end its quotas and tariffs on imported sugar if foreign nations would simultaneously stop subsidizing their own sugar farmers.

It’s a strategy being referred to as “Zero for Zero,” but which Club for Growth President Chris Chocola has called “misguided.”

“The argument made by supporters of Yoho’s bill,” said Chocola in his release, “is the same as saying we won’t stop banging our head against the wall until everyone else stops banging their heads against the wall.”

Not exactly. In reality this is the same strategy late President Ronald Reagan embraced when it came to dealing with the former Soviet Union in the nuclear arms race. In his now-infamous “Evil Empire” speech, Reagan said:

“I would agree to a freeze if only we could freeze the Soviets’ global desires. A freeze at current levels of weapons would remove any incentive for the Soviets to negotiate seriously in Geneva and virtually end our chances to achieve the major arms reductions which we have proposed. Instead, they would achieve their objectives through the freeze.”

Reagan understood that we don’t live in a perfect world and often find ourselves dealing with other nations that cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

For the United States to unilaterally end our sugar defense program – a “freeze” of sorts – would simply remove any incentive for Brazil – “The OPEC of Sugar” – to end its programs of mass subsidization and curb its global desires to dominate the world’s sugar market.

Reagan was correct about dealing from a position of strength, not from a position of appease-now/negotiate-later. And it’s the same negotiating position the U.S. should take to the World Trade Organization: We’ll lay down our sugar programs only if and when you lay down yours!

Rep. Yoho’s “Zero for Zero” resolution is not, as the Club has asserted, nothing more than “a public relations scheme dreamed up by lobbyists from Big Sugar in an attempt to dupe members of Congress and other conservative groups.”

In reality this is the same time-tested, tried-and-true negotiating strategy embraced by The Gipper himself. A conservative. Who was anything but a dupe.