Deglobalization, or finding a way forward backwards

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Pierre-Noël Giraud, professor at the elite school of industry studies l'Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris (Mines ParisTech), advocates a different use of trade barriers: namely not to protect the crisis-ridden French industry, but the "billion down below", i.e. in poor countries. Giraud urges rich nations to institute a form of "differentiated protectionism" in Africa's favour. The idea is to "curb imports from what are now the emerging countries and remain entirely open to the poorest countries, so as to encourage the former to industrialize the latter". This distinction between emerging countries (such as China, India, Brazil) and developing countries (most of Africa) would then disappear after a few years.

This protectionist push is bound to come as a surprise to Giraud's readers after he made a solid case for globalization in his 2008 book La Mondialisation (right): "I've always considered protectionism an interesting option, provided it is cooperative and can be used to fight against inequalities," he explains. "We need to open up the protectionist debate, and do so seriously, by drawing up scenarios, by anticipating the consequences. That might take a couple tenths of a percentage point off our growth, but it could be worth it. We need to lift the taboo on debating these questions." Giraud suggests that an improved G20 (including Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance) might be an apt forum in which to conduct that debate.


2 - Financial deglobalization

Protectionism is a reaction to unbridled trade in goods and services. But some stress the need to rein in the forces of finance instead. Re-regulating the markets (as the G20 is struggling to do) won't suffice to counteract 1980s financial deregulation: a return to a more rudimentary, almost archaic, system is needed to tame the beast of finance.

This is the battle cry of the so-called ‘appalled economists‘, who advocate "strictly cordoning off the financial markets" and "prohibiting banks from speculating for their own accounts". One such appalled economist, Frédéric Lordon, research director at France's CNRS, actually proposes a whole slew of strategic nationalisations, e.g. nationalising stock trading platforms and even government deficit financing (the Greek debt, for example, is largely held by foreign banks).

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