In Swipe at Trump, U.K.'s Fox Likens More Protectionism to Drugs

  • Non-tariff barriers between rich nations quadruple since 2010
  • Protectionism is like a ‘class ‘A’ drug,’ Fox tells Tories

U.K. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox warned against a rising tide of protectionism in the global trade system, likening trade barriers to dangerous and addictive drugs.

“In the world around us there is a rising chorus of protectionism which threatens to drown out the case for a free and open global trading system,” Fox said Friday at the Conservative Party Spring Forum in Cardiff, Wales.

While not mentioning U.S. President Donald Trump directly, the thread of Fox’s speech was an attack on the administration’s trade policies, from dumping a trade agreement with some of Asia’s biggest economies to wanting to renegotiate terms with Mexico and Canada.

“New barriers, many of them invisible, are emerging around the global economy creating new impediments to the open commerce that is the lifeblood of global prosperity,” Fox said. Protectionism “is economically destructive, preventing us from reallocating global resources effectively” and also “socially regressive.”

Fox cited research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showing that the number of non-tariff barriers to trade, essentially bureaucratic impediments to the free movement of goods, quadrupled to more than 1,200 in the five years through 2015. 

“Protectionism can be seductive but is a dangerous liaison. I have described it as the class ‘A’ drug of the trading world –- it can make you feel good at first but it can prove disastrous in the long term,” he said.

The trade secretary said Britain and its European Union partners should shy away from imposing new barriers to trade even as the U.K. prepares to withdraw from the 28-nation bloc and its single market after more than 40 years of membership. The new relationship should be based upon “open trade and mutual prosperity,” he said.

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