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L’heure n’est pas au fondamentalisme commercial

CAMBRIDGE – « L’un des défis cruciaux » de notre époque « est de conserver un système commercial international ouvert et qui puisse continuer à se développer ». Malheureusement, les « principes libéraux » du système commercial mondial « sont en proie à des attaques de plus en plus nombreuses ». « Le protectionnisme se répand. » « Le système menace de se fragmenter […] ou de s’effondrer, dans une sinistre répétition des années trente. »

Vous seriez excusable de croire que ces lignes sont tirées d’une de ces confessions inquiètes qui remplissent les médias consacrés au monde de la finance et des entreprises et s’alarment de l’actuelle hostilité contre la mondialisation. Elles furent pourtant écrites voici trente-cinq ans, en 1981.

Le problème était alors la stagflation dans les pays avancés. Et l’épouvantail n’était pas la Chine mais le Japon, qui faisait trembler les marché mondiaux – et s’en emparait. Les États-Unis et l’Europe avaient répondu en érigeant des barrières douanières et en imposant des restrictions « volontaires » aux exportations japonaises (RVE), notamment d’automobiles et d’acier. On parlait partout de la montée d’un « nouveau protectionnisme ».

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