Why the Centrist Victory in France is Good for America

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Close Economic Ties Serve Ongoing Trade Negotiations

The victory of Emmanuel Macron, the centrist candidate who defeated populist, far-right contender Marine Le Pen in the recent French elections, is being touted by pundits as a victory for moderation in French politics.

By all accounts, Macron was indeed the most moderate candidate among the original 11 whose names appeared on ballots in the first round of France’s elections in late April. He was also the only candidate in favor of political and economic multilateralism, which was purported to have fallen out of vogue among Europe’s, and specifically France’s, increasingly disenfranchised masses.

Granted, the new president’s economic policies may raise eyebrows among free-market purists. He has called Europe’s approach to globalization imperfect and suggested a stronger stand must be taken with respect to the implementation of antidumping policies targeting Asian nations that compete unfairly within Europe. He has also favored a Buy European approach that would limit EU procurement to companies that maintain at least half their production within the EU.

But he has also been openly opposed to the blanket protectionism proposed by his main opponent, Marine Le Pen, whose platform included a three percent tax on all imports and favored French companies for any public procurement projects. Macron, conversely, is in favor of CETA, the contentious free-trade deal signed between Brussels and Ottawa, and has expressed a general openness toward trade that may not just be all talk. According to the Japan Times, the first bilateral summit between Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on May 27 was heavily focused on fighting protectionism and finding a path toward free trade between Europe and Japan.

The prevalence of moderation in the outcome of the French election is not only a win for France, but also one for the United States and a number of other G7 nations. France is the kind of country whose economic impact on this side of the Atlantic often falls under the radar of economic observers, but is actually quite substantial. Last year, France was our eighth largest trading partner, accountable for some $77 billion in goods trade, according to the US Census Bureau, representing a 44 percent increase since 2000.