Pacific-Asia and the Future of the World-System

By Ravi Arvind Palat | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

The crisis of East Asian agriculture must be situated in relation to these pressures. Its predicted demise ( Hemmi, 1987; Ohno, 1988) is perhaps a logical outcome of the singular pursuit of industrial competitive advantage in the world- economy. 11 In geopolitical terms, the deregulation of East Asian farming is the quid pro quo for a development model premised on both the U.S. military umbrella and access to the U.S. market for industrial exports ( McMichael, 1987). For Japan, the quid pro quo involves expanding agro-food imports. This must also be seen, however, as a condition for obtaining leverage in international negotiations to extend foreign markets for Japanese manufactures and capital ( Raghavan, 1990: 71). For the United States, the quid pro quo helps to offset the U.S. trade deficit, but the internationalization of Japanese capital raises the competitive stakes as rival supply zones emerge.

We are in the midst of an intense maneuvering for advantage in the world- economy, with agro-food restructuring as simply one component of the larger matrix of forces. The present juncture is a transitional one--between the previous (second) food regime that was anchored in the Pax Americana and an emerging world order that threatens to be organized through the GATT, institutionalizing a neomercantilist international trading system for the benefit of the core states, and in particular its TNCs. 12 The food component is increasingly centered on HVPs, elevating agribusiness beyond the family farmer to plantation or estate and to contract farming organized by food companies or their equivalent. A world market for agro-food products has emerged, both as inputs--especially the current trend of grain substitutes and generic inputs--and as processed foods. Agricultural trade is potentially less a matter of state-to-state exchanges and more a matter of world exchanges dominated and organized by TNCs, 13 the strongest supporters of the GATT-style liberalization measures ( Wysham, 1990; Weissman, 1991). These forces for liberalization have already gained a strong foothold within the political economy of the East Asian states, as industrialists, food processors, and exporters challenge agro-food protectionism and encourage the importation of HVPs. With sluggish grain markets, HVP growth directly challenges the content of U.S. "green power" in LVPs. For Japan, especially, there is an elemental tension between a national rice policy, which structures land use and the farm sector, and the growing importation of HVPs, many of which are produced by Japanese offshore capital. Here the conflict between national and international forces is expressed in the ongoing realignment of political forces around the "food question."

Thus, the attempt to expand agro-food markets in East Asia reveals the profound contradiction between the process of internationalization and the salience of the nation-state in this period of restructuring. National (commercial) agricultures arose within the context of the world-economy and inter-state system. As the content of the world-economy changes and as states shed their national foundations to accommodate themselves to the internationalization of capital ( McMichael, 1991),

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