A Tribute to Tim Josling
photo copyright of the Josling Family
Tim Josling passed away on 27 November 2018, at the age of 78. Tim eventually lost a two-year battle with cancer, a fight that he largely kept to himself.
Tim was an intellectual giant in the agricultural economics profession, and a close friend to so many of us. His research and writings covered an unbelievably wide area, and the thematic focus of his work kept evolving as he continued to work actively until very recently. Tim had a nearly insatiable interest in what was going on in global trade and agriculture, and a stunning knowledge of facts and developments in the policy arena. He was a prolific writer, publishing, editing and contributing to a large number of widely read and frequently cited monographs. He must have written hundreds of journal articles, conference papers, newspaper articles, working papers etc.
Tim was a highly original thinker, full of new ideas and inspiring views. Discussing policy matters and solutions to complex issues in the trade regime with him, through long hours and often until late at night (and typically over several beers), was extremely stimulating and rewarding. It was simply impossible to be bored in his company. He made outstanding contributions to a broad variety of themes in the domain of agricultural and trade economics. He will always be remembered for having developed, already in the early 1970s, the concept of the Producer Subsidy Equivalent, a breakthrough methodology that established a wholly new and solid basis for assessing, and comparing across countries, the nature and intensity of government support to agriculture. Originally developed for the FAO, this approach is still used by the OECD, where the concept was gladly adopted and later further elaborated to become the well-known Producer Support Equivalent, maintaining Tim's original acronym PSE.
Trade matters were always one of Tim's major interests. His numerous contributions to the analysis of the treatment of agriculture in the GATT and later the WTO, and his suggestions as to where the trade regime should go, were absolutely outstanding and highly appreciated by both academics and negotiators. The analysis and discussion of regional trade agreements owes immensely to Tim's intellectual input. Sanitary and phytosanitary measures, geographical indications, institutional arrangements, transparency provisions, climate change legislation, biofuel subsidies, and, and, and ... - it is virtually impossible to do justice to the manifold trade issues that Tim covered in his work.
Tim was a wonderful colleague and co-author. It was pure pleasure to work with him on joint projects. He was so collegial, reliable, flexible, forgiving, never tempted to outclass others in cooperative work. One could discuss the craziest ideas with him and jointly develop them into workable hypotheses and proposals. He loved to play with numbers, design models and bring them to bear on real world issues. Tim was both imaginative and rigorous, organizing his overabundant thought to become easily communicable (his two-by-two matrices were but one of his admirable approaches to illustrating the structure of complex matters). Tim could also write extremely well, in a clear and elegant style, easily readable even on complicated issues, in nearly literary English (one reviewer of a proposal for a book project once commented that "Josling has a useful mid-Atlantic idiom"). And he was stunningly fast in drafting text. It sometimes felt as if he could write faster than others can think. But when his sparkling ideas occasionally got ahead of him it was also easy to convince him to go a step back and start the argument afresh. Can anyone think of a colleague with whom it was more rewarding and easier to collaborate?
Tim's academic career started with a B.Sc. in Agriculture from the University of London (Wye College), an M.Sc. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Guelph, Canada, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Michigan State University. He taught at the London School of Economics and the University of Reading, England, before joining the (former) Food Research Institute at Stanford University in 1978. After his retirement Tim remained a Senior Fellow at Standford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a faculty member of its Europe Center. He was a founding member of the International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium and Chair of its Executive Committee for a number of years. Tim also was a founding member of the International Policy Council on Food and Agricultural Trade, and he served as President of the UK Agricultural Economics Society. He held a Visiting Professorship at the University of Kent and was Visiting Scholar at the Institute for International Economics in Washington. The American Agricultural Economics Association made him a Fellow in 2004.
We have lost one of the greatest agricultural economists of our era - and a most wonderful friend. It is so hard to believe that we will no longer be able to chat and collaborate with him. But we will all be grateful for having known him and for having had the privilege of collaborating with him.
Professor emeritus, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, University of Göttingen
and former OECD Director for Trade and Agriculture