The sanctions boomerang: Why trade bans backfire, by Karin Kneissl

In a sense, trade bans always backfire, because they bar mutually beneficial transactions between two countries’ citizens. From Karin Kneissl at

Trade wars have been common throughout history, but they often have unintended consequences that undermine their intended goals. From Napoleon to the US and EU – none got it right.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

In 1806, the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte implemented one of the most significant trade blockades in European history, known as the “Continental Blockade.” The underlying cause was a trade conflict between France and Britain. In 1793, Britain, which was at war with France, imposed a naval blockade on French port cities.

So on 21 November, 1806, Napoleon announced the Continental Blockade in Berlin, prohibiting European states under French rule – Prussia, Holland, Spain, Austria, and parts of Italy – from engaging in “all trade and correspondence with the British Isles.” As a result, ships from England or its colonies were not permitted to dock in any of these countries’ ports.

The trade blockade eventually involved almost the entire European continent, and London responded with counter-blockades. Smuggling became rampant, and after the European powers gradually pushed back Napoleon’s troops, the Continental Blockade was lifted in early 1813. The British emerged as the victors, having diverted most of their trade to North America.

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