Mandelson warns US against protectionism

The European Commissioner for Trade, Peter Mandelson today (9 June) called for strong leadership in trade matters from whichever candidate ultimately becomes the next US president.

Mandelson, speaking at the annual BritishAmerican Business Winston Churchill Lecture two days after the presidential race finally became a straight battle between Barack Obama and John McCain, also issued a warning that America’s best interests would be harmed if its new leader took a protectionist stance against globalisation.

“There is a sense that globalisation is something that is being done to us, rather than something that we control,” argued Mandelson. The consequence, he continued, was rising pressure for protection.

“We see it in growing economic nationalism at home, a return to fashion for zero sum thinking about resources and public goods,” he added. “Who would have thought, 10 years ago, that you would hear serious US presidential candidates putting NAFTA in question? Or calling into question the desirability of concluding a world trade round? There are still too few leaders willing to stand up and make the opposite case.”

In front of an audience that included senior business leaders from both sides of the Atlantic, Mandelson also highlighted the changing balance of economic power and the shift away from what he called, “the Atlantic world”.

“The next US president will be the first whose foreign economic policy from day one will so clearly need to face up to a fundamental shift in global economic and political power from west to east,” Mandelson said. “[It is] a shift that is only beginning.”