I realise that I'm blinkered but....


Yes, I know, a shock isn't it, my admitting to being blinkered. But I am of course: the logic of unilateral free trade is unassailable so I never really understand those who would complicate matters. For example, there's a campaign going on about the GSP + access that Sri Lanka has to the EU. The essential point of which is that since, as is at least alleged, the Sri Lankan government is being beastly to at least part of the Tamil population then this special access to the EU market should be denied to all Sri Lankans.

All of which sounds really rather strange to someone like me. No, I understand the idea of having special access: it's not for any reasons of economic logic, it's all about politics here within the EU. There are enough lobbyists in Brussels to make sure that the EU will never become a free trader across the boundaries of the zollverien. Sad but true: the best that can happen is that some free traders can sometimes manage to have exceptions made to the rules that prevent the poor of the world from sending us their produce. Essentially this happens by pointing to a place which is so poor, so benighted, oppressed perhaps by the tricks of nature, and saying that you're going to impoverish these people just to please your industrial protectionists? These people? And so it has been with Sri Lanka.

But then we get to the part I really don't understand. Assume all the allegations are true. The Tamils, or some subset of them, are indeed being oppressed by the Sri Lankan government. Our response now is going to be to raise import duties and barriers to exports from Sri Lanka? Really? We're going to make ourselves poorer to protest the actions of a far away government? We're going to make the subjects of that government poorer to protest the actions of that government? Really?

In the name of protecting some of the poorest in the world we're going to make them even poorer? Surely the answer is to have even fewer trade restrictions so that we can continue to alleviate that poverty?