What it Means to Take Japan Seriously
Chapter 26 05/12/2000 13:28 Page 1 26. Rethinking free trade* The international trading system needs a Copernican revolution. Or rather, Free Trade Orthodoxy needs a Lutheran Reformation. Consider Britain’s recent history. From the first impact of Honda’s arrival to the death of the British motorbike industry was about a decade. By the time the colour TVs and cars began to come from Japan we had learned our lesson. We trumped up charges of dumping to justify punitive tariffs, and thereby pushed the Japanese into VERs - ‘voluntary’ export restrictions. They responded - resentfully and reluctantly - by manufacturing inside our market. The result: we now have a flourishing CTV and a flourishing car industry. True, sad things have happened to British firms in those industries. But they would have happened anyway - faster and more brutally - under free trade. And at least a very large chunk of the value-adding activity which goes into making our cars and TVs takes place in the UK and generates labour incomes in the UK. As for the profits, British insurance companies and pension funds long ago shifted their investments out of BL and into Toyota and Nissan. Sensible and effective pragmatism. But how will the economist High Priests of the Free Trade Orthodoxy describe it? As the unprincipled and selfdefeating expediency of short-sighted politicians. They will tell you precisely how much cheaper the cars would have been if we had just gone on importing them. They will not only tell you how...
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