Monday, December 22, 2008

Trade Wars

Should be fun.

Seeking to avoid such a reversal, leaders from 20 major and emerging economies gathered in Washington on Nov. 15 for a global economic summit, issuing a pledge to refrain from protectionist measures for at least 12 months. They also vowed to reach a breakthrough this year on a stalled global trade deal that would bring down tariffs on a wide variety of exports, injecting as much as $100 billion into the global economy.

But nations have failed to comply with both of those promises, with many not waiting for the ink to dry on the summit agreement before reversing course.

For example, on Nov. 18 -- just three days after the summit -- India levied a new 20 percent duty on imports of some soybean oils to protect domestic farmers as international prices have dropped during the global economic slump. Experts in India think the government may soon raise taxes on other types of foreign-made cooking oils.

Increasingly, nations are rolling out support for battered domestic industries that critics are decrying as trade-distorting government subsidies. The United States, under fire for bailing out General Motors and Chrysler, on Friday announced that it was taking legal action against China at the WTO for allegedly offering unfair support of its export industry -- including the award of cash grants, rebates and preferential loans to exporters.