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Une logique progressive du commerce

CAMBRIDGE – Le régime du commerce mondial n'a jamais été très populaire aux États-Unis. L'Organisation Mondiale du Commerce, pas plus que la multitude d'accords commerciaux régionaux comme l'Accord de libre-échange Nord-américain (ALÉNA) et le Partenariat Trans-Pacifique (PTP), n'ont eu un fort soutien de l'opinion publique. Mais l'opposition, bien que large, était diffuse.

La grande différence, c'est qu'à présent le commerce international est au cœur du débat politique. Les candidats à la présidence des États-Unis Bernie Sanders et Donald Trump ont fait de leur opposition aux accords commerciaux un élément clé de leur campagne. Et à en juger par le ton des autres candidats, prendre la défense de la mondialisation constitue un suicide électoral dans le climat politique actuel.

La rhétorique populiste sur le commerce est peut-être excessive, mais rares sont ceux qui nient la réalité des griefs sous-jacents. La mondialisation n'a pas bénéficié à tout le monde. De nombreuses familles de travailleurs ont été dévastées par l'impact des importations à bas prix en provenance de Chine et d'ailleurs. Et les grands gagnants ont été les financiers et les professionnels qualifiés qui peuvent tirer parti de l'expansion des marchés. Bien que la mondialisation n'ait pas été la seule (ni même la plus importante) force motrice des inégalités dans les économies avancées, elle y a contribué.

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