Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Krugman on protectionism

While there are allegations that the protectionist trend across the world is increasing due to sluggish global economy recovery, Paul Krugman believes that as compared to the Great Depression in 1929 countries have not shown a protectionist surge this time around. The chief reason for this, he opines in his NYT op-ed, is the fact that an institutional framework perhaps exists to deal with protectionism:
"So why, exactly, aren’t we seeing more protection? Why aren’t politicians — even conservative politicians — looking at the situation and saying, hmm, a tariff won’t increase the deficit, it won’t involve debasing the currency, but it could clearly help create jobs? 
One answer might be the “Smoot-Hawley caused the Depression” thing; this isn’t true at all, but it might be serving the purpose of a noble lie. 
Or maybe it’s the structure of trade agreements. The countries that arguably could really, really use some protection right now are inside the European Union, so no go. Countries outside still know that any protection they impose will lead to big problems at the WTO; the United States has to know that a protectionist response would break up the whole world trading system we’ve spent almost 80 years building."
I am not so sure that the protectionist trend has subsided. A look at the WTO disputes and proceedings of the various Committee meetings, especially the ASCM, at the WTO indicate that countries continue to impose tariff and non-tariff barriers as well as prohibited subsidies, inconsistent with WTO rules, to protect domestic industry. Perhaps the extent and scope of these measures have lessened over the years.It may be a matter of degree rather than fact.It also depends on what you define "protectionism" as.

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