Protectionism is on the rise. As Europe and the United States dig in for a trade war over steel tariffs, economists warn that we risk returning to the “inward-looking, mercantilist policies” of the 1970s (if not the tit-for-tat protectionism of the 1930s).
The Anglo-Saxon champions of globalisation, Britain and America, have apparently turned their back on the global order they helped to establish. The US under Donald Trump has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, and wants to “renegotiate” NAFTA. Great Britain has said it hopes to conclude trade deals with countries around the world after Brexit, but the immediate consequences of leaving the Single Market will be new barriers to trade with Europe.
China, which only joined the WTO in 2001, is now emerging as one of the foremost defenders of global free trade via initiatives such as its proposed new Silk Road. We are also faced with the spectacle of an economically liberal, pro-free market France trying to convince a protectionist-inclined US to keep its markets open. Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!
We had a comment sent in on our “Suggest a Debate” page from Margardia, who asked if the US economy can survive protectionism. We wanted to take a broader approach, though.
Can the global economy survive protectionism? Will we return to the “new protectionism” of the 1970s, or the tit-for-tat trade wars of the 1930s? And will the consequences be just as devastating, or are we headed for a more humane form of globalisation? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!