Libre-échange et amour coûteux

LONDRES – La neuvième conférence ministérielle de l’Organisation mondiale du commerce, tenue à Bali en décembre dernier, a débouché sur quelques modestes mesures d’encouragement du commerce mondial. De façon plus générale, l’approche multilatérale de l’OMC a démontré son utilité en empêchant un accroissement massif des barrières commerciales, contrairement à 1929-1930, période durant laquelle le protectionnisme a contribué à approfondir et étendre la Grande Dépression. Mais la principale question – savoir si la mondialisation est une bonne chose, et pour qui – reste sans réponse.

L’élément fondamental de la mondialisation – le libre-échange – repose sur la théorie de l’avantage comparatif, selon laquelle le commerce international est avantageux même pour un pays qui peut produire toutes les denrées de base meilleur marché (en termes de coût du travail ou des ressources) qu’un autre pays.

L’exemple classique avancé par le prix Nobel d’économie Paul Samuelson est celui du meilleur avocat d’une ville qui en est également le meilleur dactylographe. Sous réserve qu’il excelle plus en droit qu’en dactylographie, il est logique qu’il se spécialise dans cette matière et laisse sa secrétaire s’occuper des tâches de dactylographie. Ainsi, leurs deux revenus seront majorés.

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