From Martin Kelly:
I\’ll give you another example. Britain\’s imposition of free trade on India put its textile industry, 19th Century India\’s best shot at developing an extensive manufacturing base, back 100 years. That was the real, and just about the only, imperial sin committed by the British in India.
I\’ll agree that the strangulation of India\’s textile industry was indeed an Imperial sin but it wasn\’t a sin of free trade. Rather, it was a sin of protectionism.
We imposed the British Factory Acts onto the Indian industry. That is, we insisted that a vastly poorer country could not exploit one of its comparative advantages (its poverty) against our own domestic industries.
There is of course a modern day parallel, all those shouting that there should be labour and environmental codas to trade agreements. People should only be able to export to us if they treat the workers as we would wish to be treated, ignoring the fact that in a vastly poorer country such would mean no jobs, rather than bad jobs by our standards. The same with environmental laws: sorry, but a clean environment is a luxury good and we shouldn\’t be insisting that the poor buy such rather than the food, jobs and incomes which they themselves would prefer.
The exportation of the higher standards that we rich bastards can afford is protectionism now, just as it was when we screwed over the Indian textiles industry.