Mandelson, The Mail and aluminium tariffs
Monday, May 24, 2010
A Daily Mail "expose" on Saturday berated Peter Mandelson for his role in reducing tariffs for aluminium imported in to the EU during his tenure as Trade Commissioner in 2005. It's very rare that we come to the defence of Mandelson, but in this instance there is a case to be made. The argument that reducing tariffs "cost 300 British jobs" is absurd in its simplicity and illogic. Cheaper aluminium has benefited thousands of British businesses, through lower production costs, allowing them to expand and create more job opportunities.
The aluminium industry has long been in decline in the UK, mainly as a consequence of the high energy costs associated with production. Russia, with access to cheaper fuels, has a comparative advantage and is able to produce at far lower costs. It was against these cheaper imports that the tariff was aimed. With the staggered removal of the tariffs British businesses were able to enjoy access to cheaper aluminium from Russia and elsewhere. With aluminium in such wide usage- in everything from packaging to paint- few industries won't have benefited from these price reductions.
Protecting a handful of jobs at inefficient plants in the UK at the expense of everyone one else is nonsensical. UK businesses and consumers should not be forced to pay over the odds for a small, but vocal, group of vested interests who profit at the expense of everyone else. Reducing the aluminium tariffs stands out as one of Peter Mandelson's political achievements that we fully support.