The Peanut Butter Wars

By Paul Comrie | June 1, 2018

Have you heard the news?  Nic and I are speaking about it as we speak.

President Donald “J.” Trump has just announced a 25% steel and aluminium tariff on products coming from three essential trade partners – Mexico, Canada and the EU.

The EU was quick to respond:

“The US now leaves us with no choice,” said EU President Jean Claude Juncker.  “This is a bad day for world trade” (and a bad day for peanut butter and jelly sandwich lovers everywhere).

It makes me think that we’re on, once again and rather unfortunately, a collision course between the still liberal but fragile European collective with the surging, hard-charging freewheeling free marketeers of the world.  A major subject of interest for Nic and I, this morning we’re making jokes about peanut butter but also wondering, it starts with peanut butter and steel, but where to next?

“You have to hit them where it hurts. What will Europe do without its peanut butter supply?”

I wonder if there’s something more at play?

Call me conspiracy minded and a mind bent on seeing the negative, but I can’t help but feel slightly concerned by the front page of The FT this morning.

Discussions of a new trade war, a weakening of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance that held and formed the post-war liberal order, and a brutal assessment of Germany’s financial standing and reputation with a potential ‘hit piece’ running just below the peanut butter battle, relegating Deutsche Bank to the scrap heap. Calling for a revision of the famed Teutonic institution – calling into question the bank’s reputation, it’s assets, its holding and reputation, I can’t help but wonder – is this ‘news’ or ‘news with vested interest’?

Europe stands in the way of Anglo-Saxon populism.  Right now it’s the last remaining voice of dissent in the fast emerging bloc of nationalists and anti-globalisation enthusiasts.  To be sure they have a point to be concerned with the global trade and cultural order. But to call for a collapse of the current order for a throwback Friday, wanting a return to the 1990s is in my humble opinion, a grave error.

Like all bullying tactics, it starts with a joke and ends with a cry of alarm, if not outright help. Let’s hope it can end in time for us all to get back to the business that’s made us so prosperous, happy and free: liberal trade and generous gentility.