Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Anti-Globalization Is No Longer Anti-Americanization

Sophie Meunier surveys changing French attitudes toward globalization in an article for Foreign Affairs. She points out that attacks on globalization are back in vogue in France but that their tenor has changed.  Globalization is no longer equated with Americanization. Fear of China has replaced fear of the United States. The French tend to overlook the benefits of globalization, which is "hardly surprising; [since] the benefits of globalization can be diffuse and invisible, while its costs are tangible and concentrated." Her argument continues:
Yet even if the French have less reason than before to take a strong stance against globalization, the issue still dominates the current electoral season. First, the French continue to focus almost exclusively on the negative consequences of globalization, not on the opportunities it has offered or will offer. Polls have repeatedlyshown that they regard France as the least well positioned country in the global economy. Partisan affiliation does not seem to matter: 71 percent of Socialist Party sympathizers and 75 percent of Sarkozy supporters favor protectionism.
And both major candidates are faux culs on the issue:
As a result, the electoral contest cannot play out in the global economic policy sphere. There is no fundamental difference between the international economic visions of Sarkozy and François Hollande, who was the first secretary of the Socialist Party and is Sarkozy's main competitor, even if there is space between them on domestic matters such as fiscal policy. Both understand that globalization is essential to France's economic growth. Of course, neither can really say so aloud. They will both continue to defend free trade and investment staunchly but by stealth, hiding their actions behind rhetoric to appease the pessimistic public. Instead of globalization policy, which will still be at the forefront of public conversation, the presidential election will hinge on questions of style and personality, of European governance and austerity, of Sarkozy's balance sheet on immigration and integration. Sarkozy chose the slogan "A Strong France" for his reelection campaign. Through his activist foreign policy and a constant presence on the European scene during his first term, he has tried to conjure the image that his country still has a loud voice in the world. That will be a tough act for him to reconcile with conventional narrative that his country has been victimized by globalization.

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