Mark Barnes Columnist

Whenever a fight broke out on the playground at school (and there were many), the teachers who broke it up always wanted to know who started it, and that’s who got punished. The truth of the matter is that the boy who threw the first fist was, more often than not, the "less guilty" of the two. The root cause of the fight usually started way before the bell went for long break. Besides, the first rule of survival in schoolboy fighting is "hit first, hit hard". So, who started the fight that may lead to a global trade war? China did. It is a complex, tricky business, this business of trade tariffs. In fact, anything that seeks to interfere with free market forces becomes difficult to manage, precisely because the drivers of fair value are set aside in favour of sovereign (sometimes personal) protectionism.Sovereignty, and the rights it endows on its transient or, worse still, permanent leaders, can have enormous knock-on effects and unintended consequences. Inevitably, protectionism d...

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