Although the cartoon accompanying your article, “Seeking Protection,” casts the symbolic Brazilian macaw in a miserably paranoid light, protectionist policies have met with success in the history pages of the world’s hustling economies. As a policy, protectionism enjoys popular support and is economically compelling. Beginning with British mercantilism in the colonial era and continuing into the ‘American System’ employed during this country’s own era of industrialization, protectionism as a growth strategy has more recently been turned to as a foil to China’s currency-pegging antics. For their part, India’s high tariffs in the 1990’s and Russia’s continued coddling of its domestic industries have provided further examples of protectionism in practice.
The fact is that rising industrial powers competing with well-established rivals have consistently engaged in protectionism to stoke the embers of their economies and develop domestic capacity. It is hypocritical for the international community to chide Brazil for using a mildly protectionist strategy to protect its domestic auto industry, especially in light of the U.S. government’s own unprecedented bail-out of American car companies. Brazil’s national outlook is bullishly oriented towards economic predominance, and one can expect similar policies to emanate from South America’s premier hard hitter.