Britain’s aim of thrashing out lucrative trade deals with American and the European Union look doomed to failure.
Prime Minster Theresa May and her ministers have a dream of the great ship Britain cruising the oceans laden with goods destined for other nations.
But the days of empire have long gone, and the two trading partners May most covets are the main offenders for adopting harmful trade agreements, says a report from international law firm Gowling WLG.
The lawyers say the odds are Britain is unlikely to win a free trade deal with either partner – and can expect some tough talking with dozens of other nations.
The world’s 60 leading economies have adopted more than 7,000 protectionist measures in the past decade.
Many were made to shore up fragile economies, to safeguard jobs or to promote an advantage.
Trading with the EU
Between 2009 and 2016, the law firm claims the EU introduced 5,657 directives and other measures to restrict trade with outside partners.
Although the EU’s largest economy, Germany, has trade equal to 87% GDP, most of this is within the EU. Tariffs with non-EU trading partners raised $20 billion over the research period.
As Britain raises 57% of GDP from overseas trade, the risk of protectionist policies by other countries is high.
Trading with the USA
If the EU is tough on trade, the USA is even worse, and no improvement is expected under President Donald Trump.
Since 2009, the US has signed off on 1,297 measures seen as harmful to global traded, with just 206 considered as liberal, says Gowling WLG.
Protectionism is not confined to Europe and the States, the report explains.
India, Russia and Argentina are all guilty of imposing harmful trade policies.
Some countries are trying to stimulate trade on good terms.
Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia are all encouraging less harmful agreements, says the report.
“Protectionism is complex and can be viewed positively or negatively depending on the country and market a business operates in,” says Gowling WLG.
“Further analysis has the UK as the world’s eighth biggest victim of protectionist trading measures since 2009, but it is not blameless for the rise of protectionism, as it is ranked sixth in the world for the net number of protectionist policies implemented against other countries.”