Rising Tide of Protectionism

As a followup to this post on security as a Trojan horse for protectionism, I wanted to link this article in the WSJ($) called The Perils of Protectionism:

Fifty-six percent of the economists polled in the latest WSJ.com
forecasting survey -- conducted in the aftermath of a flap over foreign
management of U.S. ports -- say protectionism will lead to some
slowdown in U.S. growth over the next several years, and 8% predict
that the slowdown will be significant....

The ports controversy came at a time of growing concern about
protectionism around the world. It followed the blocked bid by China's
Cnooc Ltd. to acquire Unocal Corp. last year and emerged as European
governments angle to prevent high-profile utility deals within their
borders. The fear is that if governments take steps to shield their
countries' businesses, international trade and investment flows could
be reduced. Corporations will find it more difficult to reach new

Protectionism is unambiguously bad," said David Berson, chief economist
at Fannie Mae. Indeed, the free flow of capital across national borders
is conventionally looked upon by economists as a long-term good, and
69% of those surveyed say foreign ownership of U.S. assets is positive
for the economy in the long run.

One example of why the protectionist arguments are short-sighted is demonstrated by this passage from the same WSJ article:

While the ports row has receded, the U.S.'s large bilateral trade
deficit with China, which was $17.91 billion in January, remains a
flashpoint. Some lawmakers complain the imbalance has been inflamed by
an artifically low exchange rate for China's yuan against the dollar.
Though Beijing modestly revalued the yuan last summer, allowing it to
float in a narrow range against a basket of foreign currencies, critics
have continued to lash China's currency policy and call for further

So the Chinese government is artificially subsidizing the US economy through reduced prices of Chinese goods via a low valuation for the yuan vs. the dollar.  And that's a bad thing?  If the Chinese government is holding down the exchange rate, then they are in fact taking their money and the money of their citizens and pumping it into lower prices for US consumers and lower interest rates on US government debt.  Ooooh, color me really concerned.

As far as the "well, we're going into debt to pay for our consumerism" argument, I and others have tried and tried to educate the world that the trade deficit is not a debt, and running a trade deficit is not bad.


  1. Steve Podraza:

    31% of economists surveyed think foreign ownership of US assets is bad for the economy in the long run?

  2. JohnDewey:

    "31% of economists surveyed think foreign ownership of US assets is bad for the economy in the long run?"

    That was my question, also, until I remembered all the liberal economist blogs I've been reading. Maybe the truth is this:

    31% of economists believe that foreign ownership of US assets is bad for the economy if encouraged by a Republican White House occupant.

    Those same 31% also believe protectionist measures are bad, if proposed by Bush and the Republicans.

    And, surprisingly, the 31% of economists believe it would be bad for the economy if Bush and the Republicans just went home and let the economy take care of itself.