There appears to have been "un peut d'un spat", as they would say En Français, between President Sarcastic of France and Mr Mandy "Mandy" Mandelbrot, one time Prince of Darkness and now Trade Commissioner of the European Union.
First, Monsieur Sarcastic appeared to blame Mandy for the Irish "No" to the Lisbon treaty.
Then Mr Mandy slapped down Monsieur Sarcastic for being a PROTECTIONIST.
This actually goes a bit deeper than the French being peeved about their Presidency of the Union being
Monsieur Sarcastic and the French are merely at the forefront of people who say it is time to look out for our own interests and hike tariffs on imports to make sure that European – by which they mean FRENCH – Farmers can continue to prosper.
And this is just as worrying as the rumblings coming from the campaign trail in Americaland – fortunately not so loudly as in the early part of the year – about protecting American farmers and industry too.
This is a very BAD idea.
Everyone should remember that the Great Depression of the 1930s was caused not by the Daleks in Manhattan but by everyone reacting to the Wall Street Crash by slamming up trade barriers. And world trade grinding to a halt caused a LOT more damage to jobs in all the countries that put up trade barriers than ever the crash did. Because once you put up trade barriers, then everyone else reacts by putting up barriers to you too. So you can't sell your exports meaning that they are wasted and other people can't buy them so they have to go without. It makes a bad situation worse.
To his credit, Mr Mandy is resisting the pressure from the French Presidency.
"No one's going to bully me!" he says.
Liberals have ALWAYS supported moves for freer trade. Trade spreads economic well-being as well as binding the world closer together in ties of friendship and co-operation. You only have to LOOK at the European Union to see how SUCCESSFUL this policy is – not only have we not had a WAR in absolutely ages, but all the countries of Europe are getting better off.
Look at China too, where freer trade with the West has led to growth in prosperity. Ironically, this has fed into our current problem because now more people in China can afford to eat MEAT, which means there is a need for more grain to feed COWS and SHEEPS and CHICKENS, which all compounds the shortages due to drought and biofuels.
But equally these shortages are driving UP food prices, so farmers should be BETTER OFF even without protectionism.
Higher food prices also make economically viable more projects to recover agricultural land from desertification and encroaching seas. AND it increases the pressure to end the destructive civil wars in Africa that are stopping farmers from farming. But only so long as it is possible for those farmers to get their products to a market to sell them. Hence we need more free trade, not less.
It is all too easy to play to the HOME CROWD, promising to keep people's jobs safe. What is HARDER is actually to explain to them that the only REAL way to keep jobs safe is to be more open to trading fairly and freely with the rest of the world.