Douglas Carswell

31 AUG 2016

France has just proved TTIP was never about free trade

France appears to have killed TTIP – the EU-US trade deal. "The Americans are giving us nothing", the French trade minister complains. Which only goes to show that TTIP was never about free trade in the first place.

If TTIP were a genuine free-trade agreement, it would simply allow customers to buy products made in California as easily as those made in Calais or Clacton.

But that isn't what it does. As France has let slip, the negotiations aren't focused on taking down trade barriers, but on bargaining over concessions. That's very different.

Far from making trade easier, TTIP attempts to expand the permission-based system of the Single Market across the Atlantic. It seeks to decree who is allowed to produce what and where – so that certain corporations in certain countries are kept safe from foreign competition.

In other words, it's not about free-trade, but protectionism.

Protectionism seems to be all the rage right now. It unites Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, Francois Hollande and Marine Le Pen. The conceit is that it makes average earners better off. But it's a con.

Trade barriers only protect producers – and they do so at the expense of consumers. They artificially enable some suppliers to sell products at a higher price than the market by barring foreign competition. Which means consumers have to pay more to get less.

France's own Frédéric Bastiat realised this two centuries ago. He mocked the idea that punishing foreigners for selling us products that we want to buy makes us better off. Protectionism, he wrote, just creates scarcity.

All the arguments in favour of TTIP are about restricting abundance in the interests of certain producers. Just like the case for the Common Agricultural Policy, with its subsidies and quotas. Or the state-aid rules that slam American Apple for not paying enough tax, but somehow permit direct government handouts to French Renault.

Like everything else the EU does, TTIP is a corporatist, protectionist fix.

Protectionism is what creates crony cartels, and entrenches rent-seeking elites. Spreading wealth requires a system that protects the interests of consumers. It's called free trade.

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