Rich nations must act on free trade: Financial Times


We are now at a dangerous juncture in securing global economic recovery. The choice is between making a determined effort fully to implement the pledges made in the last two summits of the Group of 20, or to pursue the beggar-thy-neighbour path so disastrously taken in the 1930s. Unemployment is rising and, despite stimulus packages from Washington to Beijing, it will stay at very high levels for some time. In response, many politicians will push for trade and investment protectionism – indeed, they are already doing so.

I have been a banker for more than 50 years, mostly in international finance, and for the most part it has been an incredible journey, as constantly expanding trade and investment lifted nations from the wreckage of wars and recessions, contributed to extraordinary rises in incomes and strengthened discourse among peoples. But never in this period have we seen an economic and financial crisis as formidable as the current one. We need to recall that it was the Smoot-Hawley provisions of the 1930s that amplified and extended the Great Depression and that it was protectionist retaliation by key powers that contributed to the disastrous security tensions that emerged in that period.

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