Using trade policies for strategic purposes will be more difficult than Macron believes

“Aux armes, citoyens (Arms, citizens). Two years ago, the European Union, under the leadership of the so-called ‘Geopolitical Commission’ of Ursula von der Leyen, adopted the ambitious but vague goal of developing ‘strategic autonomy’. Although invoked almost daily in Brussels, the concept has remained aspirational, even abstract, while the EU faces real and even specific threats, with China blocking Lithuania’s exports and Russia threatening to invade Ukraine. This is a good time to turn the undoubted power of trade policy into a political goal, to resist resistance from hostile governments, “said Alan Beattie, an article in the Financial Times. Macron / France thinks it could be difficult to use the new anti-coercion tool as a protectionist weapon. ”

“Assuming he is re-elected in April, President Emmanuel Macron will lead the EU Council of States over the next six months and try to overcome France’s lack of unity and vulnerabilities to build a European geopolitical power. Theoretically, the European Union only needs this. – led by a large Member State with a well-known army, intelligence services and diplomatic capabilities, and for the presidency of the EU Council, Macron adopted, with a little more than an air of revolutionary zeal, the slogan “relaunch, power, membership” “He also has a personal motive for building a strategic power independent of traditional allies, following the humiliation of September 2021 through the Australia-UK-US security pact (AUKUS) and the effects on the contract for the sale of French nuclear submarines.” .

Through “excellent synchronization”, the European Union is creating a new trade weapon, an “anti-coercion tool”, which France wants to implement quickly. The new mechanism will allow for rapid retaliation with trade, investment and financial measures against illegitimate pressure from foreign governments. In the future, this tool would block China’s intimidation of EU countries such as Lithuania. “But multiple vulnerabilities hamper France’s ability to coordinate the reconfiguration of EU trade policies for strategic use,” FT said.

The first factor is the lack of unity within the EU in terms of policies towards China, Russia and the United States. “Macron frequently has disagreements with Eastern European countries, especially because of his flexibility with President Vladimir Putin. EU-China bilateral investment deal has now disappointed the EU and US President Joe Biden’s administration, as it has made Europe look weak, “said the FT columnist, noting that France is often politically vulnerable. internal.

In addition, “France needs the support of Germany to achieve its EU ambitions. Macron has been gentle with Russia and China, but Germany has so far proved volatile. German industrial organizations have criticized Lithuania’s defiant attitude toward Beijing and called for (…) Advocating for the centralization of the strategic power of the European Union is strong, but Macron’s ability to produce results in this regard will require more European unity and internal resilience in France than at present. “, concludes the FT editorialist.

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