In Le Pen’s “smart protectionism”

In Le Pen’s “smart protectionism”

In Le Pen’s “smart protectionism”



A mistrust of free trade permeates French society

Le Pen calls for ‘smart protectionism’ without any explanation of what that entail

81 per cent of French people believe free trade aggravates unemployment

Yes, we get it. Marine Le Pen is a divider, a xenophobe, a dangerous nativist who’s willing to disregard individual rights of every kind to achieve her goal of Making France Great Again. She’s racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic. And you’ll delete us off social media if we even think about voting for her.

For many people, the paragraph above explains all you need to know about the rise and rise of Le Pen. She’s the perfect protest candidate, a Gallic equivalent to Donald Trump for the grumpy patrons of village bars in the South of France who want to stick two fingers up at the metropolitan elite.

But the idea that Le Pen is simply a protest candidate doesn’t hold water. The truth is that she is ahead in the polls not because she is so extreme, but because, for a whole lot of ordinary middle-class French people, what she says about protectionism sounds like common-sense economics.

On the website of the National Front you can find this press release, headlined “Vinci [a French construction company] chooses a Turkish subcontractor at the expense of French façade specialists: we need protectionism”.

“There aren’t 36 different solutions in order to respond to these attacks against employment linked to unfair international competition,” it says. “What is needed is targeted protectionism and economic patriotism to the benefit of French companies.”

In Le Pen’s 144-point plan for her presidency, she similarly calls for the defence of French jobs via “smart protectionism”. Whether the protectionism is “smart” or “targeted”, the idea has been in the vocabulary of the French far-Right for a few years already – but there’s still no explanation of what it entails.

Logically, it will involve leaving the Single Market and imposing import tariffs, but the question of how Le Pen adjusts to other countries’ responses, and how she deals with the inevitable rises in consumer prices, remains unsettled.

This lack of clarity (and sense) doesn’t seem to stop the French public liking the idea. According to an IFOP poll in 2012, prior to the last presidential election, 53 per cent of French people believe that free trade has a negative impact on consumer prices; 69 per cent assert that it aggravates the deficit; and a staggering 81 per cent believe it has a negative impact on employment.

These views are not limited to a particular demographic: they’re shared among private and public sector, between different kinds of professions, between urban and rural areas, working and retired, men and women. Nor did voting intention – whether a voter was far-Left, far-Right, centrist, conservative or socialist – seem to make much difference.

This helps explain why it has been so very rare for politicians here to come to the defence of the principles of free trade – and why Le Pen’s ideas are getting such a sympathetic hearing.

To his credit, Emmanuel Macron – the former economy minister now running as an independent outsider, and the favourite to beat Le Pen in the second round – has tried to bring some facts to bear.

In a debate last year with National Front deputy chairman Florian Philippot, he pointed out:

“We [France] even have more direct investments in China than the Chinese have in France. That’s the reality. So yes, let’s start a [trade] war with China with our short arms, it’s a very good idea that you’ve got there. They’ll kick out all the French companies in China as a reaction. We have a lot of French companies which sell components to Chinese producers…

“So sure, we’ll get into this war. You know what? We’re talking about 25 per cent of Airbus market share here. So you, Florian Philippot, will explain to the worker at Airbus that we’ll have to close down at least a quarter of the production sites in France because of your trade war with China.”

But where Macron uses facts, the far-Right uses the moral argument: it is standing up for France, and for French workers and companies, in the face of a hostile world.

Ultimately, the rise of the National Front is not about a culture war – it’s not primarily about the integration or assimilation of different nationalities and religions. It’s about the fact that France is riddled with the disease of unemployment. And just like a disease, it takes away people’s ability to focus, to consider a rational argument. It’s not terribly difficult to convince a dehydrated person to drink seawater if you have nothing else to offer them.

During this election campaign and beyond, free-marketeers need to fight the National Front’s regressive economics by providing real-life examples of what protectionism entails: fewer choices, higher prices, fewer jobs and toxic diplomatic relations. But they also need to make the case that ultimately, prosperity – and jobs – can only be created by free trade, and free markets.

Let’s just hope France’s leaders learn that lesson in time.


* * *

Trump and Trudeau. Who is better?

Революция — не «девичьи ощущения», а реальные война и голод

Свобода, равенство, братство — маскировка брехни демократов

Европа должна сама о себе позаботиться. S.Karaganow

Молдова и народ ее на немецкой карте 1730 года


Das Schwarze Meer oder Apfel der Zwietracht

Will Europeans unite in time

The Eurozone: On the Edge of Crisis

, , , , ,


  1. OrthodoX

    A new poll published on February 17 has found that Marine Le Pen is continuing to increase her lead and now stands to win 26 per cent of the first round of voting.

    Emmanuel Macron and Francois are set to tie with 20 per cent of the vote each, according to the poll by PrésiTrack OpinionWay / ORPI for Les Echos and Radio Classique.

    Benoit Hamon is predicted to come in fourth place with 16 per cent.

    Despite Ms Le Pen’s clear lead in the first round of voting, the survey found that she will likely lose in the second round, although support for her is growing.

    In a Macron-Le Pen run-off, Mr Macron is predicted to win with 60 per cent – down from 64 per cent just three days ago. If it were Mr Fillon standing against the FN leader, he would win with 57 per cent – down two per cent.

  2. Claro

    Russia appears most concerned to shore up support for former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, a pro-Kremlin figure who’s been hit by a family finance scandal. His presidential rival Emmanuel Macron this week accused Russia of meddling in the French election by putting out fake news through its media outlets.

  3. Eudipus

    After the wreath-laying at de Gaulle’s tomb, Philippot hosted a dinner for 100 party workers and supporters in a nearby restaurant. At the end of the meal, with crumpled paper napkins strewn across the table, he told his guests that Trump’s win proved that the people were “throwing off their chains”. France would be next, he said, promising that Marine Le Pen would win the French presidential election in May.

  4. Humboldt

    “Things immediately gelled between us, both on a human level and politically,” Philippot told me. “She is very direct, there’s no pretence.” Le Pen described their meeting as a kind of intellectual love at first sight. Soon they were finishing each other’s sentences.

  5. Scott Scorrupa

    For Marine Le Pen, the model lay in northern France. Aged 30, she had been elected as a regional councillor in Henin Beaumont, a depressed, former coal-mining town. She recognised that France’s northern industrial belt, which had traditionally voted left, could turn to the Front National if the party stood not just against immigration, which remained its chief selling point, but for the victims of deindustrialisation and the financial crisis. Growing up in the north, albeit in a nice house near a golf course, Philippot also knew of the vast number of potential votes to be won among the working and lower middle-class – people with a job, maybe a house, people who were afraid of losing what they had worked hard to achieve and of slipping down the social scale.

  6. WIILy Brandt

    The session began without him. It was a gift for his regional opponents, who call him a carpetbagging Paris opportunist with no real local ties.

  7. Witek

    Le Pen wants to curtail immigration and has made headlines over the past year with her anti-European Union rhetoric, which echoes that of former Brexit leader Nigel Farage. A French abandonment of the EU would essentially mean the bloc losing its second- and third-biggest economies at the ballot box in the space of less than a year. Germany is the EU’s largest economy.

Добавить комментарий

Ваш e-mail не будет опубликован.