AS we enter 2017, what lessons can we learn from the past for the future? The First World War began partly because of a threat to free world trade, in the form of a British idea called Tariff Reform. The policy was just protectionism. Foreign manufacturers were to be kept out of the British Empire to protect British jobs.
Levies on all imported goods were going to be spent on social housing old aged pensions and other worthy causes. British protectionism was a threat to jobs in the emerging economies of Germany and Russia. The First World War started partly as German and Russian ministers in 1914 both looked to secure national economic futures by conquest. Ironically the Tsar and the Kaiser tried to make a trade deal in 1905 which all their ministers had rejected. This might have prevented the war. Can we now avoid the mistakes of the past by befriending China and reassuring them there is no need for them to secure their future using military strength in the South China Sea or anywhere else? President-elect Trump wants to encircle the Chinese with a Russian alliance. He wants protectionist policies in the USA. Is this going to be as disastrous for the US as Britain’s protectionism was for the British Empire which no longer exists?