Global trade has long been a hot button political issue, but it’s reached a fever pitch in recent times. President Donald Trump has urged for free trade between nations, and imposed a series of controversial tariffs that have lead to immense economic insecurity. The promise of equal and reciprocal trade relations sounds appealing on its surface, but is there really such a thing as free trade? The DW Documentary series explores this complex question in A Game of No Rules.
In this modern age, we’ve been told that isolationism is the enemy of prosperity. But have we been sold a false premise? The film travels to the United States, Germany, Switzerland and Cameroon to test this elusive economic theory.
A cycling factory in Germany has benefited tremendously by flirting with protectionism. Punitive tariffs keep the Chinese from dominating the global bicycle market. Now, China, Taiwan and Germany share the construction and assembly duties on each bicycle sold from the German factory. In the United States, where protectionism is not yet an accepted practice, even the traditional American brands are manufactured entirely in China.
The filmmakers also explore construction and agricultural industries including flooring tiles, onions and chickens. They make visits to wealthy and poor communities alike to discover the disparities that arise from globalization. In addition to the real-world business owners, farmers and factory workers, the film also offers a panel of economic experts who provide valuable historical context to our current trade climate.
Of course, looming over every frame of the film is the threat of a global trade war. As detailed in the film, protectionist policies might serve a useful function at times, but they can also lead to disastrous consequences. After the Great Depression, the United States and Germany both shuttered themselves from global trade through exceedingly high tariffs. The volume of trade dropped by nearly two-thirds, and ultimately ended with the Second World War and the formation of the World Trade Organization.
By delving into identifiable industries and focusing on each affected player within them, A Game of No Rules provides a clear and instructive portrait of global trade.
Directed by: Tilman Achtnich