In Europe, France Leads the Protectionist Charge

Aug 23, 2017 | 16:17 GMT

President Emmanuel Macron is hardly the first French leader to promise to protect his country from competition abroad.

Many French voters are skeptical of globalization because it threatens to weaken the state, undermine the country's national identity and sovereignty, and erode democratic accountability by granting more power to private (and in many cases, foreign) actors.


Since its formation in late June, France's new government has been sending mixed signals about its views on the economy. On one hand, Paris has offered up plans to make its economy more competitive by reforming labor laws and cutting public spending. On the other, it has proposed barriers to the acquisition of companies in strategic sectors by investors outside the European Union, has attacked a scheme allowing Eastern European laborers to work in France and has blocked an Italian takeover of a French shipyard. These moves have raised concerns, both within and outside France, that Paris will pursue the type of protectionist measures that Brussels has opposed from the United States. And as the debate about the eurozone's future continues to unfold, the question of whether the European Union needs additional protection from external -- and in some cases, internal -- competition will shape the Continent's agenda in 2018...