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Adam Smith Institute: Oh how they try to stifle free trade

Monday, October 09, 2006
By Dr Madsen Pirie
 
They might pay lip service to free trade and WTO rules, but by the back door they use every conceivable excuse to let their national rules thwart their international agreement. We saw the USA Senate attach to its Safe Ports bill another bill which effectively shuts down on-line gambling. Irwin Stelzer in the Sunday Times suggests it might be the social conservatives who find gambling distasteful. Yes, but why didn’t they touch horse-race bets or state lotteries? Because those are US dominated, where on-line gaming was dominated by foreign firms.

It’s the same protectionism that the EU uses to ban GM foods on ‘safety’ grounds, even though Americans have been eating them for years. Then there are the Russians, limiting the activities of Total and Royal Dutch Shell on ‘environmental’ grounds. It’s a game everyone plays, but one which sees the EU as its grandmaster. The aim is always the same: to give ones own companies an advantage by using national laws to limit the access foreigners have to domestic markets.

The WTO can only grind on remorselessly, announcing its judgments and handing out fines. Oh, no doubt we’ll get there eventually, but a lot of living standards and wealth will have been sacrificed foolishly and needlessly in the interim.
 

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