Former President George W. Bush increased 300 tariffs in the final days of his administration; Congress successfully inserted "buy-America" provisions into the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to repatriate auto manufacturing from Eastern Europe; and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised "British jobs for British workers." Desperate times often bring damaging measures. But protectionist acts will only further stifle world trade, thus lengthening and deepening the recession.
In Book IV, Chapter 2 of "The Wealth of Nations", Adam Smith makes clear his distaste for what the modern world calls protectionism: "To give the monopoly of the home-market to the produce of domestic industry...must, in almost all cases, be either a useless or a hurtful regulation." While G-20 nations and most other free-trading countries strive to meet the letter of international trade law, some appear to be skirting its spirit.