The opening of a Wal-Mart store near Bristol has reignited fears the US giant may come to dominate British retailing. In a sense those very fears are a compliment to the remarkable success of the company in the US. They certainly are a tribute to one of the most sophisticated publicity operations in the world. Even Mr Blair could learn a great deal about spinning from this lot as carefully placed stories give them exaggerated headlines claiming enormous savings whether at Asda or their new store. In the event, reports suggest that it's better than the Dome and not as good as the London Eye. Wal-Mart's offerings will provide good competition in the marketplace but not earn for it the over-hyped star billing its publicists have promoted. Keeping retailers on their toes is not a bad thing, but the real danger of Wal-Mart is the one which successive governments have compounded. Wal-Mart bought Asda because no British supermarket could, nor could Asda buy any of its competitors. Our monopoly laws invite foreign takeovers and make it difficult for British companies to grow at home. Sainsbury may need new direction but it could not get it by a merger with Tesco or Safeway. No reconfiguration of the big three would be allowed. So all could fall prey to foreign purchase. How different in France. There the system makes it easy for national consolidation in the face of those coming in from outside. We in Britain are still stuck in the nationalistic view that our market is only here in the UK, not Europe wide. So, perversely, instead of helping our winners to grow at home so they can win in the wider world, we make them easy meat for predators from outside. If we were only a bit more patriotic and a bit less xenophobic we might see a British flagship supermarket dominating Europe. {{NEWS }}