2017 The Year Protectionism Moves Centre Stage

Globalisation is on the ropes and its time for ‘Progressive Protectionism’

Thursday January 12th, 2017

Published as an e-book ‘Progressive Protectionism – taking back control’ provides environmentalist Colin Hines’ alternative vision to that likely to be paraded on the world’s stage next week. Then the Davos elite will gather to share angst about the rise of protectionism whilst the Twitter Protectionist Donald Trump will become US President. Colin Hines’ view is that in 2017 progressives should be pushing for control of borders to people, capital, goods and services because this would help see off the rise of the extreme right. It would also return a sense of hope to the majority of people because with such policies in place governments could set effective policies to achieve more job security, a decrease in inequality and protection of the environment.

Colin Hines said ‘To effectively counter the extreme right will require a mind-wrench by all those who think themselves to be progressive away from the usual cloth eared, cosmopolitan condescension shown to those sensibly worried about large scale and inadequately controlled immigration. This concern is real and has to be politically acknowledged, Most importantly, only when it is will be a movement against the adverse effects of globalisation be possible. If we now move towards a rapid reintroduction of border controls for people, goods, capital and services we can look forward to the day when stating that globalisation and large scale immigration is inevitable will be seen to be as quaintly passé as asserting that the sun will never set on the Empire.’

With a suitable Indelicacy Alert, Hines added that ‘Every time that old chestnut about Britain is open for business is trotted out, we should understand that in reality Britain’s legs are open for business and we are being screwed. Foreign steel and other imports hit manufacturing, overseas companies snap up British ones, foreign landlords leave investment homes empty, the ghastly gig economy increases job insecurity and mostly because of inadequately controlled immigration the population grows alarmingly ever higher’.

Progressive Protectionism’ proposes detailed policies to shift the global economy away from open markets. In place of that now discredited system of global economic governance nation states would be allowed to really take back control of the scale of capital, goods, services and people entering and leaving their country. The end goal is to allow national economies to rediversify and prosper by maximising local economic activity. Domestic businesses and funding sources would then meet the needs of the majority in society in all countries. They will do this in a way that reduces inequalities and power imbalances, improves social welfare and job security and adequately protects the environment. The prospect of such increasing economic improvements for the majority could result in widespread political support ranging from those on the left, the centre, the greens through to small ‘c’ conservatives.

Such an ambitious agenda will require cooperation amongst regional neighbours and a re-orientation of the end goals of aid and trade rules to help rebuild local economies and local control worldwide. It will enable groupings of countries such as the European Union to challenge open borders and international competitiveness and thus wean themselves off export dependence.

An Increasingly Unstable Europe Needs Progressive Protectionism

Aside from the United States, no one country has the economic and political power to introduce Progressive Protectionism policies on its own. Should a single nation attempt such a challenge to the interests of big business, then it would almost certainly face threats of large scale relocation and investment strikes. However the European Union would be a powerful enough bloc to be the first one to pursue this path.

A New Direction for Europe

‘Progressive Protectionism’ involves proposing a new direction for Europe, one of a cooperative grouping of countries prioritising the protection and rebuilding of local economies. This could provide a hopeful and secure future for its people and turn the EU from an increasingly discredited entity to one that provides a positive answer to voters concerns. Cross border issues like responding to non European migration, climate change, pollution, crime and military security would still require intra European cooperation and so would become a priority for a newly popular European Union. To achieve this, what is required is to start a debate in Europe about turning the Treaty of Rome into a ‘Treaty of Home Europe-wide’.

The Treaty Changes Required

It is the Treaty of Rome which dictates the abolition of controls to the free movement of people, goods, money and services. What seems to have been overlooked is that it was not hewn out of stone by Moses. It’s an outdated political agreement that is now increasing economic insecurity through austerity, relocation of businesses and the rapid migration of workers and so is prompting growing opposition that has seen a surge in support of the extreme right. To reverse this and instead build a sense of hope in a future where local economies are protected and nurtured continent wide, ‘Progressive Protectionism’ includes a rewrite of the Treaty of Rome to covert it to a ‘Treaty of Home Europe-wide’:

Why This Form of Protectionism is Progressive

The term ‘progressive’ covers support for policies which respond to the democratic wishes of the majority, but in a way that improves social conditions overall within and between countries, which drastically increases environmental protection and helps improve conditions in poor countries in particular.

Progressive Migration Controls
The most contentious aspect of Progressive Protectionism’s policies for many is the question of controlling the influx of migrants into their country. The book looks at the scale of global migration and the reaction to it, particularly from those people living in the richer countries which today experience high levels of immigration. It explains why the present open borders to movement of people within Europe is undemocratic and anti internationalist, as it steals the brightest and the best from poorer countries, for example their doctors and nurses.

Also detailed is the kind of migration policy that fits in with the end goals of Progressive Protectionism i.e. an end to new permanent migration. To tackle the reasons why people migrate from poorer countries will result in all future foreign policy, aid and trade agreements being designed with the priority of helping minimise migration globally. This will allow a range of progressive policies from fair tax to limiting arms sales, from decarbonising economies and reducing resource use, to finally escape the realm of moral handwringing and become political priorities.

Job Security Through Tackling Social And Environmental Needs
‘Progressive Protectionism’ with its strengthened border controls allows governments to concentrate on rebuilding their own economies. To return a sense of hope for the future and economic security for the majority, all governments would then be free to embrace a ‘jobs in every community’ programme.

There are two localised and secure labour intensive sources for this. The first is employment in a range of social services, especially the new growth area of looking after the elderly. The second is decentralised infrastructure projects focusing on a decades long, multi skilled programme of energy refits of all nations’ millions of dwellings, a shift to localised renewable energy and food production and the building of local transport and flood defence systems. The former could be predominantly funded by governments’ borrowing at historically low interest rates and the latter by Central Banks e- printing billions of euros, pounds and dollars via ‘Infrastructural Quantitative Easing’, involving no increase in the public debt.


‘Progressive Protectionism’ will require the introduction by nation states of a set of interrelated and self-reinforcing policy priorities:

  • Replacing international competitiveness and export dependence by the reintroducing protective safeguards to ensure revitalised local and national economies. These will include the reintroduction of tariffs, quotas, capital controls and the ability to strengthen constraints on the numbers and pace of immigration. This is the fundamental mind wrench that will do most to curb the present power of big business to play countries off against each other and to threaten to relocate unless countries bow the knee to open borders and global competition. It is the necessary precursor to being able to introduce the rest of the policies;
  • Introduce a site-here-to-sell-here policy for manufacturing and services domestically or regionally;
  • Control and localise finance such that the majority stays within its country of origin;
  • Control the numbers, rate and ability of new immigrants to stay and work temporarily or permanently
  • Introduce fairer and socially positive taxes and resource and pollution taxes and tackle aggressive tax dodging nationally and globally in order to fund social and environmental improvements and help pay for the transition to permanent, sustainable and flourishing local economies;
  • Increase democratic involvement both politically and economically to ensure the effectiveness and equity of the movement to more diverse local economies;
  • Implement a local competition policy to eliminate monopolies from the more protected economies;
  • Re-orientate the end goals of aid and trade rules such that they contribute to the rebuilding of local economies and local control worldwide.

Under these circumstances, beggar-your-neighbour globalisation gives way to the potentially more cooperative, better-your–neighbour Progressive Protectionism.

The book does not advocate a return to the oxymoronic protectionism of the 30s, where the goal was often for each protected industry or country to increase its economic strength by limiting imports and then hoping to compete and export globally at the expense of others. Unsurprisingly the more countries did this, the less trade there was between them.

Progressive Protectionism aims at reducing permanently the amount of international trade in goods, money and services and to enable nation states to decide the level of migration that their citizen’s desire.