Bert Kelly’s important place in the history of Australia can be summarized very simply. Bert arrived in Federal Parliament as the Member for Wakefield in 1958 and from then until he left the Parliament in 1977 led a long and often bitter campaign against protectionism, first against a very powerful Deputy Prime Minister and Country Party Leader in John ‘Black Jack’ McEwen and also against the deeply held and strongly defended populism of the day. We have been reminded in recent days that the debate over protectionism is never over.
Bert was opposed to protectionism because it was ‘economically foolish and morally wrong’. It was foolish he said, because it forced consumers to pay more for goods than they otherwise would thus reducing consumers’ buying opportunities for other goods. It protected declining industries and obstructed emerging ones. It was morally wrong because it created situations in which governments granted favours to some, who were thus greatly enriched, at the expense of others who were impoverished – including third world countries desperate to sell their goods into Australia and lift their people out of poverty.
‘Closing Pandora’s Box: The Growing Abuse of the National Security Rationale for Restricting Trade’ by Simon Lester and Huan Zhu
(Cato Institute, June 2019, reproduced with permission)
Over its first two years, the Trump administration has aggressively reshaped U.S. trade policy. One of its most controversial initiatives is the expansive use of national security to justify imposing tariffs and quotas. Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives the president authority to restrict imports on this basis after an investigation by the Department of Commerce. The administration has already done so for steel and aluminum and is now threatening similar actions on automobiles. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has a special exception for such measures, so there is at least an argument that they are permitted under international law. Full PDF here.