“Is the European Union capable of facing a return to more conflictual international economic relations? »


Ihe return of protectionism shakes the European Union, which celebrates its feast every May 9, in memory of the Schuman declaration of 1950 which launched the European community. The war in Ukraine, growing Chinese aggressiveness, uninhibited American protectionism with Donald Trump’s presidency, the desire to repatriate value chains since the Covid-19 epidemic, all point to a decline in liberal globalization.

On the contrary, there is a growing risk of “trade war”, according to economist and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund Olivier Blanchard. Finally, the ” end of the story “ proclaimed in 1992 by Francis Fukuyama turns into a parenthesis of about fifteen years, between the free trade agreements concluded at the beginning of the 1990s and the financial crisis of 2007. Since then, globalization seems to have reached a plateau in terms of share commercial exchanges on the wealth produced, even if other indicators, such as Internet traffic or the emergence of multinationals from the “South” (such as ByteDance and its TikTok software), testify to the growing interpenetrations. These telluric tremors powerfully shake the edifice of international economic cooperation.

However, the European Union was entirely built on the promotion of freedoms in order to ward off belligerent nationalism. It results from the rejection of wars, but also from the protectionist hydra of the 1930s, which constantly reappeared despite international cooperation efforts.

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Based on respect for the rules and the shaping of consensual compromises, is the European Union capable of facing a return to more conflictual international economic relations? Can it transform itself into a powerful Europe, at least in the economic field, or into a proactive actor, capable of going to conflict in the face of aggression? For many of its critics, the answer is negative because the Brussels blob, neoliberal and naive, is incapable of asserting itself.

Defense against Washington

However, a look back at history shows that Europeans have the resources to assert themselves collectively in the world through the EU. It is important to remember that the heart of European construction is not only free trade: the Treaty of Rome of 1957, on which the Union remains founded – the Treaty of Lisbon of 2007 takes it up in part – is a text composite, combining liberalisation, regulation and tolerance towards regulated protectionism.

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