Comment vendre l’anti-protectionnisme

STOCKHOLM – La récession mondiale qui se profile à l’horizon a placé l’intervention gouvernementale en faveur d’entreprises en déroute au premier plan de la politique économique. Dans un discours prononcé peu avant le récent sommet du G-20, le Premier ministre britannique Gordon Brown a appelé le président élu Barack Obama à ne pas renflouer les trois grands constructeurs de l’industrie automobile américaine, sous le prétexte que la concurrence mondiale avait rendu leur déclin irréversible. Un renflouage ne ferait donc que repousser l’inévitable, et au prix fort pour les contribuables.

Ce genre de conseil passe souvent mal, et tout particulièrement dans le pire contexte économique des 70 dernières années. Selon l’idée communément admise, la concurrence globale provoque la délocalisation des emplois vers des pays à bas salaires et exerce des pressions vers le bas sur les salaires ailleurs dans le monde. Au fur et à mesure que la mondialisation se propage et accélère les transformations économiques, elle exerce une influence sans précédent sur la vie des citoyens ordinaires et alimente les craintes populaires. Il n’y a donc rien d’étonnant à ce que le président français Nicolas Sarkozy ait succombé aux sirènes du protectionnisme lors de la campagne électorale de l’an dernier, tout comme les deux candidats à la présidentielle aux États-Unis.

Mais le protectionnisme n’est pas la seule alternative à la peur de la concurrence globale. Dans les pays scandinaves, comme aux États-Unis, la concurrence de l’étranger s’est considérablement intensifiée au cours de la dernière décennie. La Chine et l’Inde ont développé un pouvoir économique considérable et des pays voisins des pays scandinaves, auparavant isolés dans le bloc communiste, ont été rapidement intégrés dans l’économie européenne.

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