Un monde plat et vulnérable

Le monde est plat ! C’est le titre provocateur qu’a choisi le chroniqueur Thomas Friedman pour son ouvrage à succès, qui nous sensibilise aux effets extraordinaires de la technologie sur l’économie mondiale. Les distances se réduisent. Les obstacles géographiques n’offrent plus de protection facile. Ouvriers et techniciens de pointe, en Europe et aux Etats-Unis, sont confrontés à une concurrence planétaire. Quand un consommateur occidental téléphone à une entreprise locale, il y a des chances que son interlocuteur se trouve en Inde.

Certains sceptiques ont fait observer les limites de la métaphore de Friedman. L’un d’eux a rectifié : le monde n’est pas plat, il est “ hérissé de pointes ”. Si l’on traçait les courbes de niveau de l’activité économique dans le monde, on verrait apparaître de hautes montagnes de prospérité et de nombreux ravins de misère. Qui plus est, les distances sont loin d’être abolies. Même pour des voisins aux barrières tarifaires modestes, comme le Canada et les Etats-Unis, le commerce intérieur est plus important. Ainsi, malgré la proximité géographique avec Seattle, Vancouver entretient davantage de relations commerciales avec la ville de Toronto, pourtant beaucoup plus distante.

Sans préjudice de ces critiques, l’argument de Friedman est important. La mondialisation – un phénomène d’interdépendance par-delà les continents – est vieille comme le monde. J’en veux pour preuve les grandes migrations de peuples et de religions, ou encore le commerce le long de la Route de la Soie, qui reliait l’Europe et l’Asie au Moyen Age. Mais nous assistons aujourd’hui à une mondialisation différente, plus rapide et plus dense.

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