Free Trade Backlash – 300 years ago

The flemish beerdrinker suggests that fear of losing jobs to India is over 300 years old, as evidenced by this early French reaction to trade with India. Lawrence James’ Raj: A History of British India says

The prospects of Indian trade never captured the imaginations of French investors in the same way as their British counterparts. […] Moreover, in some quarters there was hostility to trade with India: the peasantry feared an influx of Indian food, and textile manufacturers protested against imports of cheap Indian fabrics. On one occasion Indian cloth was publicly burned, an early example of what would become a traditional French reaction to foreign competition. [from One-Sided Wonder]

But the British were not blameless themselves – they ensured that the factories which made finished products remained in Britain, while procuring low cost raw materials from India. The finished products were then sold in colonial markets, the biggest one being in India. Hence, the Indian National Congress’ call for swadeshi and Gandhi’s focus on home spun khadi during the struggle for India’s independence – reactive protectionism or self-reliance, whatever you want to call it.