Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 00:25 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 00:25 | SYDNEY

Resilience and protectionism


Sam Roggeveen


30 July 2008 12:38

Global Dashboard is something of a centre of expertise on the subject of resilience, and I've learnt a lot about the subject from that blog. But a recent post by Alex Evans, about the failure of the latest Doha round negotiations, raises a concern about resilience that has been floating around in my subconscious. Here's the relevant section:

For fans of liberalisation - like the US - the logic is straightforward. With food prices as high as they are, there’s never been a better time to get rid of import tariffs - so why the hell should China and India want to be able to raise them even higher than they were before Doha? 

China’s approach, on the other hand, is rooted in concerns about resilience and security of supply in a period of volatility and turbulence: hence its desire to maximise access to imports while at the same time protecting its internal agricultural sector, in which smaller farmers predominate. 

Is resilience becoming an excuse for protectionism? On one level, it makes sense. If the aim of resilience is to build the capability for society to 'take a punch' and rebound, whether from a terrorist attack, natural disaster or even a global economic calamity that restricts food imports, it makes sense to have the capacity for local subsistence.

But following that logic to its end would justify continued and even expanded protection of any industry that can be defined as 'strategic'. Or at a further extreme, it would put you in the company of the survivalist subculture that stockpiles food in the mountains in preparation for the crumbling of civilisation.

I doubt Alex is in favour of such things, but I'd be interested to know how his resilience doctrine escapes that logic.