China Crisis

Trying to get my head round this Chinese import problem. It seems the focus of the newsmen’s ire is the fact that there won’t be as much cheap tat on the shelves at Asda, Tesco and Primark as there should be because Peter Mandleson and his Euro cronies are being a bit mean and not letting Chinese goods in because they’ve made more than their import quota. The point is (and for once I’m right behind the French on this one) we should be protecting the fragile European textile industry.

[hypocrisy warning: this post might contradict some elements of this one]

Here in the Kingdom of the East Angles (that separate state that Jade referred to as East Angular) there is evidence all around of the boom years in the textile industry. You only have to look at the grand buildings of Lavenham and Norwich to see what a bit of wool and factory labour could do. I’m not saying that these were great times for everyone in society and I’m no historian but I see no reason as to why we couldn’t force ourselves to produce more stuff in this country. The way I see it, impounding half a billion pounds worth of jumpers, bras and trousers isn’t going to derail the Asian economy but this emerging wave of cheap imports could substantially damage Europe’s. Everyone seems to hate the US these days but their economy has grown, in part, due to their clever use of quotas. Look at the efforts made to protect their steel industry. If Europe is to survive as a trading bloc it needs to be clever in the same way, ensuring member states’ economies can provide for each other without having to rely on Asian goods to fill the ‘budget’ market.

That is not to say we shouldn’t trade with the East or the West but that we should leverage our position in the world to ensure we get the best of both. What’s the alternative? We’ve replaced traditional primary and secondary industries (mining, fabrication etc.) with low-level tertiary ones (call centres) and yet these are now leaking out to the Indian sub-continent. Whilst nature abhors a vacuum and the sensible answer is to assume ‘something’ will fill their place, it’s difficult to see what. For my part I think a few more intelligent industries, high-tech cost-efficient production (of which textiles could be one) and such like would be a good start. Agriculture is another one. With the climate apparently shifting toward a Mediterranean one for Northern Europe, is now the time for us to re-visit our agricultural leanings? We could become a net exporter of food to the developing world and the rest of Europe, improving our own health with a supply of locally grown produce at the same time. The knock-on effect of greater scientific research into cost-efficient, sustainable high-tech agriculture could benefit us all too. I’m not advocating a return to the ecologically damaging deforestation and hedgerow removal of the last 30 years, but more of the intelligent organic farming (c.f this debate) that, at the moment is too low volume and costly.

I risk verging on to topics I don’t quite understand but that’s the beauty of blogging. You rarely get challenged! I just think that instead of moaning about the likelihood of paying a few more quid for a jumper (which I conceded in an earlier posting might actually be keeping our inflation in check) could be offset by a general boost in our economy by an emphasis on more home-grown production. I know Clarkson always bangs on about the fact that it’s British engineering that we should be proud of and that ingenuity in this area is being ignored, I would add that this woeful neglect of our own national potential has a great opportunity to shine in the next few years as we move towards becoming an international showcase. After China in 2008 will flex its muscles as an (emerging) superpower we have a chance to show, in 2012, what a traditional superpower once was and that in the first decades of this millennia, there’s more to a nation than sheer weight of numbers, that democracy, human rights and the environment are more worthwhile than the numbers of jumpers you can produce in a year.

I really would be interested in comment on this. Feel free to add comments by clicking the ‘comments’ link at the bottom right of this post.

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