Blog: Dave LeggettThe EU and protectionism

Dave Leggett | 3 March 2009

Beware of politicians who speak with forked tongue. Actually, to cut politicians some slack, they are still struggling to cope with the speed of the economic crisis that is unfolding and grappling to make the right response. You can understand where protectionist sounding sentment is coming from as national governments line up to use taxpayers' money in the cause of protecting national economies and jobs. The slight problem with that approach is that we live in a business world that is no respecter of national borders and the automotive industry is a prime example of that.

We're all in this together and collective solutions, in which national schemes play an integral part, are clearly preferable. Beggar-thy-neighbour risks reducing the size of the pie for everyone. 

At least Mr Sarkozy back-tracked on his initial remarks suggesting that French car companies receiving French government assistance should shift capacity out of Central and Eastern Europe and back to France. That wasn't helpful. If the leaders of countries in that part of Europe have really been expressing their heartfelt thanks to the French president, they maybe did it through gritted teeth and a sense of relief that the huge investments that French companies have made are not immediately threatened. But, in any case, they have more pressing economic concerns at the moment.   

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