IN JANUARY 2000, George W. Bush, then a presidential candidate, said: “If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow.” His eloquence did little for the cause of free trade. Tariffs have consistently retained broad global support despite the spoonerism.
GlobeScan, a consultancy, has regularly conducted surveys in several developing and developed countries. They measure support for trade barriers, globalisation and free markets. Since 2002, average global support for trade barriers has remained relatively stable at around two-thirds of respondents (see chart 1). Support for globalisation and the free market has been more variable, falling sharply during the financial crisis before recovering in recent years.
The worldwide outbreak of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), also known as “mad cow” disease, suggests that world agriculture faces many issues in relation to marketing agricultural products and food safety. In May 2003, the discovery of the first domestically-originating North American BSE case, found in Canada, dominated discussions concerning the prospects of the industry inside the country, consequently creating uncertainty in the industry. Food-safety standard asymmetries have affected socio-political structures and the processes of the Canadian beef marketing channel. By considering the industry as a political economy, the concept of the task environment paradigm, as recognized in marketing literature, is integrated with the political economy framework. Dimensions of environmental uncertainty are presented. Personal testimony from beef producers is considered to add a human element to the theoretical discussion. Furthermore, this paper provides an empirical perspective on the means by which sudden effects from the macro-environment of a marketing channel create uncertainty, which is intensified in today’s increasingly complex and turbulent agrifood markets.