EU Australia Online - News & information from the capital of Europe direct to Australian businesses

OPINION: Protectionism Gets Onto The Davos Agenda

  • February 2nd, 2009
  • Posted by 7thmin

davos.jpgThis year’s Davos meeting of international business and government leaders ended on Sunday (1.2.09) on a note of urgency about the economic crisis — and some bickering over signs of protectionism on its way.

A declaration published by the forum said they “only have a short time to develop effective solutions …”

“Leaders must continue to develop a swift and coordinated policy response to the most serious global recession since the 1930s: global challenges demand global solutions,” it said.

The event, the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, at the Swiss mountain retreat of Davos-Klosters, (28.1 – 1.2.09), had opened on an optimistic conference theme: “Shaping the Post-Crisis World”.


Not so fast with the solutions, the world economy seemed to say.

For one thing, many of those present were among leading world know-alls, sharmans of heavy borrowing, accused now of contributing to the actual problem.

Some more immediate questions were still demanding attention, especially the signs of tension over moves by governments to protect their own.

New export subsidies for European Union dairy products brought complaints from competitors more attached to the open market, like the Australian Trade Minister, Simon Crean.

The Australian delegation at Davos was headed by the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard; PM Kevin Rudd was also feeling that urge to look after the one’s own; he’d dropped plans to go to Switzerland, to attend to pressing economic business at home.

If the EU subsidies move put a queer finish on decades of liberal economic rhetoric coming out of Brussels; embarrassment may have been eased by news that America’s giant stimulus plan would include “Buy USA” clauses on that key commodity steel.

Free trade has not been abandoned but in yet another allusion to the bad days of the 1930s, protectionist demands — short term relief in exchange for a broader mobilisation of resources — are back on the political, and business agenda.


World Economic Forum (Home),, (2.2.09).

Picture: Getting away from it all in peaceful Davos? WEF pic.