China and EU can jointly counter protectionism

By Dominique de Villepin

Wherever we look today, free trade is facing hard times. Over the past several months, we have been witnessing an unprecedented violent trial of the contemporary world order, which is taking place on several fronts: first, the criticism of cultural globalization, accompanied with the clash of identities; then the fear of political globalization, with the inefficiency of multilateral institutions (the United Nations, World Trade Organization, the 2015 Paris climate accord); and finally, the rejection of economic globalization, which we can see in the protectionist temptation blowing across the Atlantic.

On the latter, there are many examples of regional and international treaties whose hours are counted or the credibility has been compromised. North American Free Trade Agreement member states are divided, ratification of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement lags behind, the transatlantic partnership is stalled and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is structurally weakened by the United States’ withdrawal. Only Africa is trying to move forward with the creation of a Continental Free Trade Area, led by the African Union, and with the renegotiation of the Cotonou Agreement.