Mark Casci: Threats to globalisation mean Yorkshire needs a voice more than ever

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with the members of the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room of the White House, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with the members of the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room of the White House, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
0
Have your say

The recovery of the British steel industry in recent years has been one of the great success stories of British manufacturing and built largely around the great heritage the North, and the UK at large, has in the sector.

Seemingly on the verge of destruction owing to a flood of cheap Chinese steel a few years ago it has come back, bringing with it the unintended but hugely welcomed rebirth of the British Steel brand to our region.

What now for Yorkshire devolution?

What now for Yorkshire devolution?

That is why the sector was so alarmed last week when President Donald Trump, who has placed protectionism at the heart of his rhetoric since entering the political arena, made good on his threat to impose tariffs on steel imports.

Naturally, Nafta nations, Canada and Mexico, were handed exemptions but the UK, bound by its membership of the European Union, is unlikely to find itself in similar territory.

And given that the EU is one of the principal targets of Mr Trump’s levy, it is hugely unlikely any nation in the trading block will be granted clemency.

This not an insignificant development.

Here, a steelworker burns through a sand plug in a nozzle under the ladle and molten steel at over 1500 degrees celcius flows out into the precision made mould. Up to 105 tonnes of steel can pour from a single ladle.

Here, a steelworker burns through a sand plug in a nozzle under the ladle and molten steel at over 1500 degrees celcius flows out into the precision made mould. Up to 105 tonnes of steel can pour from a single ladle.

The UK exported some 350,000 tonnes of products to the US in 2017, more than 7 per cent of its total exports.

This is a sector still on shaky ground and there have already been alarm bells sounded about the potential knock-on effect to jobs in the steel industry.

The situation is made worse by the response. Dr Liam Fox, the Government’s International Trade Secretary of State, is due in Washington this week and is understood to be seeking talks on the matter. With the greatest respect to Dr Fox and the office he holds, I doubt Washington will be giving him much of a hearing.

Similarly, the response of the EU was dismal, proposing retaliatory measures on quintessential American goods such as Harley Davidson motorcycles and bourbon whiskey.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox delivers a speech on Brexit and Britain's future as a global trading nation, at the Bloomberg London Building, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 27, 2018. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox delivers a speech on Brexit and Britain's future as a global trading nation, at the Bloomberg London Building, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 27, 2018. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

We have been here before of course. The last Republican to hold the keys to the Oval Office attempted to impose tariffs in 2002.

Nations complained to the World Trade Organisation which upheld their case. Bush ignored it before quietly dropping the plans some weeks later.

The difference this time around is the mood has changed inexorably. Populism and the seeking to protect nation state interests ahead of the wider good is at odds with globalisation.

The rise of Trump, Brexit, Five Star, Geert Wilders, the Front National etc all show that a colossal swathe of the developed world’s population feel massively disconnected and alienated from process, with the inevitable response being to look inward.

Ever since Edward III imposed a ban on the import of cloth from Europe in the 14th century, there has been significant political capital to be made from an economic policy that involves pulling up the drawbridge.

The two great periods of American economic growth in the 19th and 20th centuries involved significant protectionism at the heart of their economy.

Despite the globe being more interdependent than at any stage in human history it seems we are heading down this road again, with a trade war now seeming highly likely.

As a regional economy which trades on a global basis it will present challenges and opportunities for Yorkshire in equal measure.

The key will be how the region responds.

Currently, the elected mayors of Manchester, Liverpool et al benefit from regular meetings with the likes of David Davis etc while Yorkshire, with its well-documented problems concerning devolution, has nobody to voice its needs and requirements.

Progress has been made but Yorkshire is still at least two years away from having a seat at the table of these meetings.

At a time when global superpowers are looking to close the door on the world, it has never been more important for Yorkshire to avoid the same path.