Commentary: U.S. must watch protectionist trade policies

This editorial appeared in The Kansas City Star.

Economic historians agree that a trade war in the 1930s intensified and lengthened the Great Depression.

Now, with the global economy facing its worst prospects in years, many countries are giving in to the same impulse to unfairly protect their domestic industries at the expense of consumers and foreign competition.

The restrictions enacted so far don't compare in scale to the 1930s. But the trend is worrisome.

India has thrown up a 20 percent tariff on certain soybean oils.

Russia has raised levies on imported foreign cars as high as 35 percent, and it has boosted duties on pork and poultry — a move that will harm U.S. producers.

Indonesia has put in place restrictions on the importing of as many as 500 products, and imposed special license rules and new fees.

Argentina and Brazil are moving toward higher tariffs on products including wine, textiles, leather goods and peaches.

France is creating a new fund to protect its companies from takeovers by foreign corporations.

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