From Legitimate Protectionism to Trade Wars?

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2018-62-9-18-25

V. Obolenskiy, (, 
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Russian Academy of Sciences, 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., 117997, Moscow, Russian Federation; 
Institute of Economics, Russian Academy of Sciences, 32, Nakhimovskii Prosp., 117218, Moscow, Russian Federation 

Abstract. The author argues that modern protectionism has a more moderate character than that in the middle of the past century. Besides that it does not, as a rule, go beyond multilateral rules of the regulation of international trade. This allows us to define it as a legitimate one. The author estimates the probability of the execution of the approved program of the negotiations of the Doha round which aims at further liberalization of agricultural and non-agricultural trade as well as services. It is stated that the deadlock situation during the negotiations forced the members of the WTO to step back from the batch method of decision-making and the principle “everything is compulsory for all”. This opened the way for the progress in reduction of trade barriers with the help of agreements between limited number of the participants (selective liberalization) and preferential regional trade agreements of the new type (“liberalization for those who care”). A fear is expressed that the current trade conflict between the US and China may lead to the opening of wide-scale trade war between the two countries and may give an impetus for the outbreak of similar “wars” between other participants in the world trade and, at worst, for the collapse of the multilateral trading system that has been built during the past seventy years. In this case, international rules, though not perfect and outdated, might be substituted by chaos and anarchy which may result in the aggravation of problems of the world development. Further on, the author pays attention to the fact that the level of tariff protection in Russia somewhat decreased after the WTO accession. Still, the membership in this organization does not create any serious problems for most sectors and branches of the national economy. It is a matter of fact that the level of protectionism in the Russian Federation is higher than in the developed countries but lower than in the leading developing economies (China, India, Brazil). The author states that strengthening of protectionist elements in the trade policy will be a difficult task for the Russian government. The main reason is that the principal functions of the regulation of the foreign trade have been recently subdued rom the national government to the Eurasian Economic Commission. It is concluded that the possible destruction of the established international order in trade relations will not bring benefit for the domestic economy which is, to a great extent, dependent from foreign markets both as producer and as consumer. This is why Russia has to continue full support to the WTO. Still, during negotiations on this platform Russian government has to act pragmatically and to put in the forefront the nation’s economic interests. 

Keywords: WTO, protectionism, multilateral trade talks, Doha round, selective and regional liberalization, trade conflicts, USA, China, Russia 


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For citation:
Obolenskiy V. From Legitimate Protectionism to Trade Wars?. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2018, vol. 62, no. 9, pp. 18-25.

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