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U.S. Trade Policy Gets Cheesy

Paul Ryan—Cheese Proponent

“Ok, but if I win, you have to carry around a big hunk of cheese,” Rep. Jim McDermott presumably said to Rep. Paul Ryan as they placed a bet over which team would win the Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers playoff game a few weeks ago. And that’s just what Rep. Ryan did after his beloved home team lost against Seattle. Wisconsin Republican Ryan, chairman of the House Ways and Means committee and obviously diehard cheese fanatic, pulled out the cheese prop in a very Mary-Poppins’s-carpet-bag moment during a recent hearing on U.S. trade policy, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The hearing marked continued discussions on the elimination of certain U.S. trade restrictions. “Expanding American trade is going to be one of our top priorities this year,” Rep. Ryan stated during the hearing as he waved his smoked Gouda-style hunk around. “We need to address these trade barriers,” he continued. Ryan brandished the cheese during the hearing to emphasize his position on eliminating trade barriers that Canada has placed on U.S. dairy products. For decades, Canada (like the US) has restricted the import of dairy products in order to protect its own domestic dairy programs.

(A little easy economics here for context: if cheaper dairy products enter Country A’s market thanks to foreign dairy imports from Country B, the prices of Country A’s dairy products drop. This is good for consumers in Country A, but not so good for Country A’s dairy farmers. In this case, Country A is Canada, and the U.S. is desperately trying to be that Country B, exporting American dairy to the Canadian market.)

While recent trade talks within NAFTA have resulted in Mexico and the U.S. removing similar dairy trade barriers, Canada continues to uphold its restrictions, much to Rep. Ryan’s pro-trade chagrin. Because he was probably one of those drama kids in high school, Rep. Ryan pulled his lost-bet cheese out of his bag in an awkward attempt at political sway, catering to the cheese-loving sentiment of American politicians.

Some claim the politician should have practiced his art of persuasion with a more traditional American cheddar rather than a Dutch-style Gouda. Or even waved around one of those individually-wrapped crayon-orange slices. (You know. The ones that allegedly don’t melt?) Though Ryan chose the much-loved foreign Gouda, he did pronounce it in the typical American phonetic of “GOO-da” instead of the traditional Dutch pronunciation (“HOW-da”). What can we say? The man’s a patriot.

And while Rep. Ryan ultimately lost his bet against Rep. McDermott, here at culture, we think that carrying around a block of cheese is #winning anyday.

Feature Photo Credit: Associated Press via Wall Street Journal

Michelina DelGizzi

Michelina DelGizzi, MS, MPH, is a writer and caseophile based in Boston and Lafayette, La.