Financial TimesFinancial Times

The West will rue its embrace of protectionism

By Janan Ganesh

24 Jan 2023 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

The U.S. and Europe are taking protectionist turns, turning trade relations into a zero-sum game in which the “logic of escalation” prevails to the detriment of all, argues FT columnist Janan Ganesh.

Germany’s taste for Russian gas over recent decades was a double tragedy. It gave the Kremlin leverage over Europe. But it also gave protectionists throughout the western world a spurious credibility. Look what happens, they say, when strategic industries are open to trade.

The first of these tragedies is fixable: there are substitutes for Russian fossil fuels. The second is here to stay. Within a year of the attack on Ukraine, the US Congress has passed a king’s ransom of domestic industrial aid and a piqued Europe is shaping its own version. The goal has widened: from punishing Russian violence to slowing China’s ascent. So has the key industry: from gas to chips and green tech. Over time, lots of sectors will turn out to be “strategic”. Why not agriculture? Why not the professional services that China will need to master to go from middle to high income?

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