A significant slippage in protectionism? Not yet

Abstract : In its latest Report on the "financial and economic crisis and trade-related developments" (26 March 2009), the WTO used the term "significant slippage" to qualify changes in protection observed from late 2008 to March 2009. Most of the newspapers in the world translated these terms into "rise of protectionism." This note argues that evoking a rise in protectionism in April 2009 was premature. Disputing this statement may seem futile. It is not. Such a misrepresentation of the situation offers protectionist interests a considerable tactical advantage in the coming months. First, it will make more difficult for a government to convince its country to liberalize when everybody else is allegedly busy to raise protection. Second, as nothing bad will flow from such a "rise of protection"--for the excellent reason that few additional protectionist measures have been taken so far--protectionist lobbies are in the ideal situation to claim that "raising protection" does not have the dire consequences that economists predict. Then, they will quickly add that more protection could thus be--and should be--granted more lavishly. Public opinion could only agree.
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Patrick Messerlin. A significant slippage in protectionism? Not yet. Evenett Simon J., Cattaneo Olivier, Hoekman Bernard M. Effective Crisis Response and Openness: Implications for the Trading System, Centre for Economic Policy Research, pp.25-36, 2009. ⟨hal-00973005⟩

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