Thursday, January 08, 2009
Another brick in the wall...
More media waking up to the dangers of protectionism and the (hopefully) temporary primacy of governmental control of all G20 economies.
I will be posting something soon regarding the prospects for the U.S., which are excellent relative to its competition. These are times when macro factors control everything.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Last Updated: 6:52AM GMT 07 Jan 2009
Comments 22 | Comment on this article
The new wave of radical Democrats sweeping into Capitol Hill are insisting on a "Buy American" clause in the $750bn (£503bn) fiscal package being prepared by President-Elect Barack Obama.
The $17bn bail-out of General Motors and Chrysler last month was already a step across the Rubicon towards a protectionist industrial policy, even if that was not the motive. The EU is exploring a World Trade Organisation complaint over "illegal state aid." But the latest Buy American move is much more explicit.
"This is quite dangerous," said Peter Sutherland, chairman of Goldman Sachs International and a former director-general of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). "The US is the key to keeping a one-world trading system, but there is always the tendency to go for protectionism in a recession, and this is the worst one I've ever seen."
Hans Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paribas, says the US risks setting off a collapse in discipline across the world. "The US has a leading role so this could set off a huge response in other countries," he said. "There is already talk of a €100bn (£91bn) fund in Germany to save its industry from being sold off cheap."
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed a "strategic investment fund" to fend off "predators" – a euphemism for sovereign wealth funds from Asia and Russia – hoping to snap up France's crown jewels. "We will intervene massively whenever a strategic enterprise needs our money," he said.
Nationalist measures are becoming ever more brazen in emerging markets. Indonesia is resorting to special "licences" to choke off imports. Russia has reacted to the collapse in oil prices by imposing tariffs of 30pc on cars and 15pc on farm machinery. India and Vietnam have imposed duties on steel.
Pascal Lamy, the WTO chief, is so worried he has taken to displaying portraits of Willis C. Hawley and Reed Smoot at his Green Room in Geneva, evoking the arch-villains of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act that set off the trade wars of the Great Depression. The Act was forced upon a disgusted President Herbert Hoover in June 1930. This is the pattern in democracies. Lawmakers – with a constituency base – are the first to push for protection...