Protectionisme ligt op de loer op de financiële markten

PARIS – De mondiale beleidsmakers feliciteren zichzelf regelmatig met het feit dat ze tijdens de financiële crisis die in 2008 is begonnen de beleidsfouten van de jaren dertig hebben weten te vermijden. Onder aanvoering van Ben Bernanke, de voorzitter van de Federal Reserve (het federale stelsel van Amerikaanse centrale banken), die als economisch historicus is gespecialiseerd in de Grote Depressie, hebben ze de ideeën van John Mynard Keynes omarmd, en het monetaire en fiscale beleid versoepeld om het ergste te voorkomen. We kampen nog steeds met de gevolgen daarvan voor de staatsbegrotingen, vooral in Europa, maar het is ook waar dat de wereld in 2008 niet tot stilstand is gekomen.

De monetaire verkrapping was niet de enige grote beleidsfout van de jaren dertig. Dat gold ook voor de vlucht in protectionisme, gesymboliseerd door de tariefsverhogingen van de Smoot-Harley-wet aan het begin van het decennium. Historici blijven de centrale rol in de rampspoed van die wet zelf in twijfel trekken, maar de daaropvolgende tarievenoorlog heeft de handel en de economische groei zeker geschaad, waardoor een slechte situatie alleen nog maar werd verergerd.

De hedendaagse beleidsmakers beweren graag dat ze er eveneens in zijn geslaagd de protectionistische neigingen de kop in te drukken, maar is dat wel waar? Ik verwacht op de korte termijn beslist geen tarievenoorlog, maar er zijn gevaarlijke signalen dat er problemen op de loer liggen.

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