Monday, June 17, 2013

Protectionism quietly returns?

Is protectionism on the rise? That is what a recent report of the Global Trade Alert seems to be saying. The report titled "Protectionism's Quiet Return" suggests that protectionism is quietly rearing its head again in different ways. While traditional modes of protectionism - tariff barriers and other import restrictions - may no longer be the predominant modes of protecting domestic industry, the report analyses the varying strands of protectionism amongst major economies.

It categorises "protectionism" into different categories:

1.Trade defence measures
2.Subsidies and bail outs
3.Tariff increases
4.Migration restrictions
5.Export and Investment restrictions
6. Other measures

While one may debate on what constitutes protectionism, the point that members are using innovative ways of protecting domestic industry from foreign competition is something to watch out for. While traditional methods catch the eye and are branded "protectionist" easily (like high tariffs or local content requirements) the innovative ways that countries use miss reprimand quite often.
"The past 12 months have seen a quiet, wide-ranging assault on the commercial level playing field. Governments have found ways to routinely favour domestic interests without provoking the ire of trading partners. Artful governments found no need to openly flout WTO rules either; instead, they used the wiggle room in existing rules and, if that wasn’t enough, employed policies not well disciplined by multilateral trade rules. Little of this showed up in traditional monitoring that was designed – like WTO rules – to tackle the protectionism of yesteryear. Less than half of recent protectionism involves measures on which data was collected systematically before the crisis."
Time for a re-look at how trade rules should tackle protectionism?

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