World / Europe

France should not count on protectionism

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-10-24 15:47

PARIS - In the face of a bogged-down industry, some French officials have played an "economic patriotism" card to lash out at China and South Korea for "trade imbalances" and "the downside of globalization".

However, amid an irreversible momentum towards globalization, trade protectionism is nothing but a contemptible trick and can not help France revive its sluggish economy.

In July, France's struggling automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen announced a plan to cut 8,000 jobs from its plants in France.

After that, Arnaud Montebourg, France's Minister for Industrial Renewal, has claimed several times that South Korean manufacturers were dumping their cars on the European market to garner market share.

In August, France formally asked the European Union (EU) to begin monitoring car imports from South Korea in the first step towards a possible re-introduction of tariffs, in a request made under the terms of an EU-South Korea free trade agreement (FTA) signed in 2010.

South Korea inked the FTA in a bid to balance its trade with European nations, but since it took effect in July 2011, France has benefitted more from the agreement.

Over the last 14 months, France has sharply increased its exports to South Korea by 30 percent, putting the Asian country at a trade deficit with it for the first time since 2005.

Furthermore, a latest EU survey showed that South Korean cars' share in the French market only rose by 0.2 percent in the same period.

Turning a blind eye to those facts, Montebourg, a former lawyer, still talked through his hat and even pointed a finger at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and China.

On Monday, the French minister, in a bid to promote "Made in France" products, blamed the WTO for failing to better defend European and French business and for the growth of Chinese exports to the euro zone, calling globalization and free trade a "disaster."

Fortunately, EU officials are not as arbitrary and unreasonable as Montebourg.

European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht warned against protectionist rhetoric adopted by the French minister, saying Montebourg was a protectionist and "his reasoning does not hold water".

He noted there was no doubt that "close borders would mean back to the Middle Ages".

WTO chief Pascal Lamy also believes that the appeals to promoting the France-made will lead to protectionism, and calls for more open markets.

Due to its long-standing economic problem, especially under the impact of the eurozone debt crisis, France needs a reform with keen determination and a long-term preparation to face the challenges.

Yet if French officials continue to blame on others rather than on itself, their protectionist rhetoric will only confuse their people and shift their focus on France's own problems for the time being.

Just like what De Gucht has said, without solving labor costs problem, how France can achieve re-industrialization with a system of 35-hour working time per week.

For the French authorities, it is imperative to take a rational attitude and correct measures to reform and meet challenges.

If they ignore the reality and resort to senseless tactics again, the French economy is more likely to be led to a "dead end".

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