Darling to fight Sarkozy on trade

04-07-2007

Darling to fight Sarkozy on trade
Alistair Darling has made clear his opposition to French president Nicolas Sarkozy's protectionist impulses.

Speaking in an interview with the Financial Times, Britain's new chancellor categorically set his stall in defence of the free-market values which the European Union has traditionally supported.

Mr Sarkozy, while advocating internal free trade amid a raft of Thatcherite reforms, has made clear his wish to protect French firms from European competitors. Mr Darling has rejected this approach.

"I do not believe in economic patriotism. I think it's nonsense. Economic patriotism is protectionism and there's no other name for it," he said.

"Whether it's stopping Dubai Ports taking over docks in the United States, or saying that Vietnam can't bring its shoes into Europe, or saying that I will stand behind my tub of yoghurt, I just don't think that that is a long-term strategy. It might see you through the week, but it's not a long-term strategy."

He added it was too early to tell what policies the Sarkozy administration would finally shape, saying "we're watching… he's only been in power for a few weeks".

On private equity firms, whose takeover bids are proving a major source of controversy in the City, Mr Darling said there would be no "knee-jerk" government reaction to recent developments.

"I think we should be very, very wary indeed of a knee-jerk reaction or a reaction to a day's headlines into making a tax change that could result in unintended consequences and sometimes undesirable consequences," he said.


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