But as we have seen, that same period has witnessed major progress on the part of the emerging countries, with China heading the list. The countries of Europe, Germany in particular, are especially well placed to benefit from their comparative advantages at a time when the emerging countries have to import considerable quantities of manufacturing technologies and goods. So we can hardly call Europe a victim; indeed, so far it has rather profited from the globalization process.
The second cliché: Europe is naive in that it allows itself to be taken advantage of and overtaken by its trading partners, and the porous nature of its borders is said to be the most obvious demonstration of this state of mind.
In point of fact, these statements cannot withstand even the most modest analysis of the facts and figures. Europe’s borders are neither more nor less porous than those of comparable developed countries. This applies to traditional trade barriers, customs duty and quotas, but also to such commercial protection measures as anti-dumping rules and countervailing duties, or to technical quality, food safety, and environmental safeguard standards.
Europe is no more naive than its trading partners that enjoy a comparable level of development.
Europe’s problem – its weak growth and crippling unemployment – are thus not simply linked to international trade but to different factors, and thus we should not be seeking solutions to that problem in a fallback commercial policy built on increasing the number of obstacles to trade.
The prices of European products have tended to become increasingly less competitive over the past few years. Salary levels are sometimes mentioned as being one of the causes for this, but there is absolutely no point in comparing hourly wages without relating them to the productivity of the working hour.