Creeping protectionism

I’m cheesed off about the Bush administration’s last-minute increase of tariffs on Roquefort cheese. I like moldy cheese, thank you very much, and I like the occasional imported Roquefort. Although this is a bit of a sideshow, it’s an important trade issue, as the tariff was increased in retaliation of the French ban on US beef.

Now the Obama administration has doubled the tariff on a Spanish ham called jamon iberico, which costs up to $200 per ham.

Now the market for French Cheese and Spanish ham isn’t all that big or all that important, but these are small indicators of a rising preference for protectionism — the largest of which was the “buy American” clause in the new stimulus bill. This is troubling — protectionism was a major problem during the 1930s, isolating, stifling, and limiting trade while at the same time making products so expensive that people couldn’t buy them even if they wanted to. Protectionism would be even worse this time around because of how much more integrated the world economy is. It’s a worry.

Posted on February 19th, 2009 by Katxena