Paul Lachine

Comment progresser sur la voie du libre échange ?

NEW-YORK –   Lors des sommets du G20, les dirigeants des 20 pays les plus importants de la planète soulignent l'importance de maintenir et renforcer le libre échange. Cela s'est encore vérifié lors du sommet du G20 en juin à Toronto, même si le commerce n'a pas été sa priorité. Mais on en reste encore au niveau des discours (tenus généralement par les partisans de l'intensification des échanges commerciaux). Paradoxalement cela fait le jeu du protectionnisme, car si les discours ne se traduisent pas en actes, il ne peut guère y avoir d'avancée dans la direction du libre échange. Quant aux négociations du cycle de Doha (les négociations multilatérales sur le commerce), elles sont au point mort pour une durée indéfinie.

Beaucoup d'observateurs ont été surpris que les Etats n'aient pas eu recours au protectionnisme quand la crise financière mondiale a frappé. Rétrospectivement, il est facile de comprendre pourquoi : ce sont les trois "I" qui mènent la politique, à savoir les idées, les institutions et les intérêts en jeu (par exemple ceux des lobbies). Or aucun de ces "I" ne va dans le sens du protectionnisme.

Immédiatement après 1929, les économistes ont conclu que lors d'une dépression, les taxes douanières sont justifiées parce qu'elles permettent de détourner une demande mondiale agrégée insuffisante vers ses propres produits aux dépends des autres. Mais si chacun joue à ce jeu, les taxes douanières qui apparaissent un peu partout fonctionnent au détriment de tous sans relancer la croissance. La solution est évidemment de renoncer au protectionnisme pour augmenter la demande agrégée. Cette leçon a été bien comprise.

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