OF SHARKS AND STEEL – It looks like the Australian metal exporters might be spared the wrath of The Don thanks to an unusual intervention from a friend:

Greg Norman, a friend of the president’s, was reportedly one of the key influencers who convinced him to reconsider imposing tariffs on Australia.

On Wednesday, the former champion golfer issued a letter with several business leaders playing on security concerns to argue for exemptions for Australian companies, The Australian reports.

“The value of Australia’s trading of steel and aluminium with the United States is an industry worth $545 million to Australia’s economy, which might be ­adversely affected should those tariffs be extended to include Australia or these companies,” the letter said. “Crippling these industries in our critical Pacific ally could seriously jeopardise our own power projection, readiness and repair capabilities in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has confirmed Norman was called in to lobby for Australia’s exemption, according to the ABC.

I’ve always been instinctively for free trade, because by and large it seems to work better than the alternatives. Conversely, I’m not a fan of taxes, and protectionism is just another tax that most of us as consumers pay when we buy more expensive products in order to pay the wages and profits in the industries, which, for whatever reason, cannot produce as cheaply as their overseas competitors. Sometimes it’s the cost of labour and other inputs, sometimes productivity, or the regulatory framework, or unfair competitive practices. By the same token, the disappearance of jobs in developed countries, particularly those in manufacturing, is a more complex issue than just the fault of the overseas competition (for example automation). It is sad seeing the Republican Party returning to its 19th century protectionist roots.