July 28, 2017

Westminster, U.K.

Westminster, U.K.

Source: Bigstock

Dr. Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade in Mrs. May’s Government, assures us that the world is queuing up, eager to make such deals, and negotiating them will be a simple matter. His first claim is probably true; his second certainly isn”€™t. If he believes it is, he is a very simple fellow. If he knows it isn”€™t, he is seeking to deceive the British people. Free Trade deals will be difficult because in any such deal there will be sectors of the economies of the negotiating countries that stand to lose and that will lobby their Governments to protect their interests, presenting them as special cases of national importance. They will quite often be right to do so. To give an obvious example, a Free Trade agreement with the USA will do great damage to British agriculture unless the terms and conditions of the deal allow for some degree of Protection. I know no farmer who believes otherwise. As for a Free Trade agreement with China, the balance of advantage is so heavily loaded in China’s favor that, whatever benefits there will be for the consumer here, they are outweighed by the damage inflicted on British manufacturing. And this is before one has even started to consider the costs of foreign ownership (and repatriation of profits) to the national economy.

At the end of that conversation with his grandson, my old shipbuilder says ruefully that the Protectionists may after all be right. “€œIf you”€™re weak you need Protection. We were strong”€ (when he built his ships and created his shipping line), “€œwe were strong then and there was no talk of Protection.”€

Now the likes of Dr. Fox talk enthusiastically about Global Britain and Free Trade. Are we strong enough to benefit, or so weak that we shall suffer?


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