Sean O'Grady: What gruesome deal was behind this betrayal?

Like the tale of Cinderella's delicate glass slipper and the ugly sisters, the EU seems to have difficulty trying to find a policy on footwear that fits.

It would be no surprise at all to discover that the move is part of some gruesome and deeply obscure Brussels horse-trading. Such nationally self- interested manoeuvrings are nothing new, so we needn't be shocked. It is just a reminder that, while the EU is dedicated to the perfection of its single market, it rarely applies the same market zeal outside its borders.

Which brings us to the criminally neglected Doha world trade talks – almost a decade old now – and the danger, more potent than at any time since the Second World War, of a fresh wave of protectionism. The World Trade Organisation has listed hundreds of new protectionist measures – including selective state aid and bank finance returning "home", as well as the more familiar tariffs and quotas. Politicians find it hard to justify "helping foreign workers" at times of distress. Many US congressmen and women regard free trade as a sort of foreign aid.

Yet if – and it is an unrealistic "if" – the Doha Round were completed it would boost world growth by perhaps 1 or 2 per cent of world GDP, sufficient to repair much of the damage inflicted by the recession. Free trade is the first casualty of recession; about the best that can be said is that at least the EU didn't deliver free trade an even bigger kick in the teeth.

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