Free Trade

Après cette crise, ne cédons pas au protectionnisme

Face à la crise du COVID-19, nous entendons de plus en plus d’appels en faveur d’une politique économique protectionniste. Cependant, cette politique est intellectuellement en faillite depuis des siècles et nuit au bien-être des consommateurs.

Au niveau politique, le COVID-19 nous a montré une chose : les positions politiques sont bien enlisées. Tous les bords politiques se sentent confirmés dans leurs visions du monde précédant cette crise. Les socialistes affirment que cette crise confirme que la sécurité sociale n’est pas assez développée. Pour les nationalistes, c’est la globalisation et l’ouverture des frontières qui a causé cette pandémie. Les fédéralistes européens pensent que la crise COVID-19 démontre l’importance de la  centralisation des décisions dans l’Union européenne. Enfin, les écologistes trouvent que la baisse drastique de la production permet une société plus propre et qu’il est possible de vivre avec beaucoup moins..

Comme tous ces groupes, les protectionnistes jouent leur propre jeu politique et affirment que non seulement il nous faut plus de droits de douane mais aussi qu’il faut “faire revenir” la production en Europe. 

Ils se plaignent de la dépendance européenne face à des pays comme la Chine ou l’Inde et que cette crise a montré l’intérêt de rapatrier des industries qu’ils jugent plus essentiels que d’autres. Les idées protectionnistes ont la particularité d’être représentées autant à l’extrême-gauche qu’à l’extrême-droite voir même au centre du spectre politique. Il s’avère que le protectionnisme est ancré dans notre esprit politique depuis des siècles.

Le colbertisme semble éternel

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, ministre des finances sous Louis XIV, s’était engagé dans une avalanche d’octroi de monopoles, de subventions de luxe et de privilèges de cartels, et avait mis en place un puissant système de bureaucratie centrale régenté par des fonctionnaires appelés intendants. Le rôle de ces derniers était de faire respecter le réseau de contrôles et de réglementations qu’il avait créé. 

Son système fonctionnait également à grand coups d’inspections, de recensements et de formulaires pour pouvoir identifier les citoyens qui auraient pu s’écarter des réglementations de l’État. Les Intendants ont utilisé un réseau d’espions et d’informateurs pour découvrir toutes les violations des restrictions et des réglementations du cartel. De plus, les espions se surveillaient les uns les autres. Les sanctions pour les violations allaient de la confiscation et la destruction de la production jugée “inférieure”, à de lourdes amendes, des moqueries publiques voir même l’interdiction d’exercer sa profession.

Colbert était aussi convaincu que le commerce international était un jeu à somme nulle. S’inspirant des idées du mercantilisme, il estimait que l’intervention de l’État était nécessaire pour assurer qu’il garde une plus grande partie des ressources à l’intérieur du pays. Le raisonnement est assez simple : pour accumuler de l’or, un pays doit toujours vendre plus de biens à l’étranger qu’il n’en achète. Colbert cherchait à construire une économie française qui vendait à l’étranger mais qui achetait sur le marché intérieur. L’ensemble des mesures économiques de Jean-Baptiste Colbert était connu sous le nom de “colbertisme”.

De nos jours, ce système est connu sous le nom de “protectionnisme”, et reste tout à fait courant dans la pensée politique. En Europe, nous avons abandonné cette philosophie économique (même si la Commission européenne accepte que certains Etats membres subventionnent leurs industries locales en cas de crise), mais vers l’extérieur, l’UE a maintenu trois catégories de mesures protectionnistes :

  1. Les taxes douanières par le tarif extérieur commun,
  2. Les normes de production qui imposent des coûts de convergences,
  3. Les subventions aux producteurs locaux, à travers la Politique Agricole Commune (PAC).

La question est de savoir si ces mesure protègent réellement l’économie européenne. S’il convient de retourner dans le temps pour expliquer les origines du protectionnisme, il faudrait également tirer quelques leçons du passé. Dans son Traité d’économie politique publié en 1841, l’économiste français Jean-Baptiste Say expliquait :

“L’importation des produits étrangers est favorable à la vente des produits indigènes ; car nous ne pouvons acheter les marchandises étrangères qu’avec des produits de notre industrie, de nos terres et de nos capitaux, auxquels ce commerce par conséquent procure un débouché. — C’est en argent, dira-t-on, que nous payons les marchandises étrangères. — Quand cela serait, notre sol ne produisant point d’argent, il faut acheter cet argent avec des produits de notre industrie ; ainsi donc, soit que les achats qu’on fait à l’étranger soient acquittés en marchandises ou en argent, ils procurent à l’industrie nationale des débouchés pareils.”

Considérer l’échange international, surtout dans une perspective de “déficit commercial”, comme un jeu à somme nulle, est erroné. L’idée qu’il faille faire revenir l’industrie en Europe, probablement à travers des mesures commerciales, est également fallacieuse. Il s’avère que la libéralisation des liens commerciaux est avantageux à la fois pour les pays exportateurs et ceux qui importent : les ressources entrant nous procurent la possibilité d’améliorer notre situation économique. 

L’acte commercial bénéficie aux deux acteurs et non à un seul. Croire que seul le vendeur est gagnant (car il gagne de l’argent) est une incompréhension économique grave.

Certes la crise du COVID-19 est très problématique, et nous voyons en effet une pénurie de certains matériaux médicaux. Ceci dit, produire des gants et masques en Europe ne sera pas viable économiquement et qui nous dit que les mêmes outils seront nécessaires pour la prochaine crise sanitaire ? Ceci nous montre encore une fois l’erreur fatale de penser qu’il serait possible d’organiser la société et son économie par une planification centrale gérée par l’Etat.

Tout comme le disait Jean-Baptiste Say dans ses oeuvres, pour (re)lancer l’activité économique, il faut enlever les mesures qui nous ralentissent, dont la bureaucratie excessive et l’excès de taxes. En d’autres termes, il s’agit de ne pas entraver les échanges mais plutôt permettre la multiplication des échanges.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Consumer nationalism will lead to the downfall of free trade

The post-coronavirus world will not only be shaped by its policies, but by its narratives. By appealing to the desire to protect domestic economies, nationalism is likely to become a defining feature of consumer behaviour in the years to come.

Multiple countries have launched “buy domestic” initiatives as part of national efforts to alleviate the economic consequences of the pandemic. The idea was vehemently endorsed by farmers in the UK who urged the public to buy British and support local agriculture.

Even more strikingly, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire told supermarkets to “stock French products”, showing a complete disregard for the ethos of the single market. This is just a hint of what is to come.

Such rhetoric was triggered mainly by the disruption of supply chains as a result of emergency measures. Most governments were unprepared for the outbreak of a deadly virus, and this has made them appear weak and incapable.

Though well-intentioned, rushed decisions such as lockdowns are a consequence of an economic, moral and mental gridlock that governments found themselves in. It is very human to blame everyone but oneself, so governments – which failed to ensure a free flow of goods in case of emergency – chose to blame their reliance on imports from other countries.

It’s an easy solution, and a frightened electorate will likely buy into the self-sufficiency narrative. Combine it with nationalism and trade barriers and the downfall of free trade will be unavoidable.

The concept of consumer nationalism was developed by the University of South Carolina’s Terence Shimp and Subhash Sharma. It is used to refer to consumers’ beliefs “about the appropriateness, indeed morality, of purchasing foreign-made products”. Ethnocentric consumers believe that purchasing imported products should be avoided because “it hurts the domestic economy, causes loss of jobs, and is plainly unpatriotic”.

Unlike tariffs and other trade barriers, consumer nationalism can be enforced independently and often doesn’t have to be paired with tangible interventions such as putting domestic products on front shelves in supermarkets. 

The power of consumer nationalism is that it has a propensity to impact economic events and move the needle away from free trade. At its core, “buy British to save the economy” is a very simple narrative that speaks to our sense of identity and our desire to contribute to the revival of the economy.

Spread through media and the word of the mouth, narratives affect consumer behaviour more than we can imagine. No one has explained the phenomenon better than Robert Shiller, a professor at Yale University, who argued that economic events are substantially driven by the contagious spread of oversimplified and easily transmitted variants of economic narratives. 

The most popular anti-trade narrative is that free trade destroys jobs, and its spread is far-reaching. In 2016, a CBS poll asked Americans: “Overall, would you say US trade with other countries creates more jobs for the US, loses more jobs for the US, or does US trade with other countries have no effect on US jobs?”

Roughly 15 per cent of respondents said that trade has little or no effect on the number of jobs. Around seven per cent were unsure. Of the others, 29 per cent thought trade created jobs and 48 per cent thought it destroyed them.

When asked outside the job narrative context, 43 per cent of respondents said that free trade helped the economy while 34 per cent said it hurt it. The most ironic part is that the prevalence of anti-trade narratives is an excellent way for governments to justify actual interventions. 

Milton Friedman once said: “The way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right things.” If we apply this logic to narratives, it turns out that the intentional spread of narratives makes some policies politically profitable in the long run since the nudged electorate comes to believe it’s in their interest to pay more for domestic products – because we have to save the economy! 

As such, the “buy domestic” narrative is a voluntary nudge that may or may not work, and there is nothing wrong with it, per se. After all, some consumers really want to pay more for domestic products.

The worry, however, is that it might, in the end, be translated into import restrictions and leave no choice to those who prefer imported goods. The voice of the minority of consumers – who don’t want to make what is framed by governments as a “necessary sacrifice” – will be left out.

Trade has lifted billions of people out of poverty by expanding our consumer choice through lower prices and increased variety of goods. It hasn’t got the credit it deserves, and the average person probably doesn’t realise that by buying foreign goods they are engaging in a global-wide exchange that has, among other things, enhanced peaceful relations between countries. 

The pandemic is a test for us all, and we are all looking for something in our world order to blame. Free trade isn’t what caused the pandemic, but it is what can help make the post-coronavirus world better. And that is the narrative that needs championing more than ever.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

EU to retaliate: Last thing we need now is the EU-US trade war

impose tariffs

BRUSSELS – Yesterday, the European Commission announced the European Union will impose tariffs on US exports of lighters, furniture coatings and playing cards. “The EU is adopting measures in reaction to the U.S. extension of its import duties on steel and aluminium to certain derivative products,” a Commission spokesperson told POLITICO.

Counterproductive To Impose Tariffs On US Products?

In response, Luca Bertoletti, Senior European Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center, said that “this move from the Commission is very dangerous. In a moment of crisis such as this, it appears counterproductive to impose tariffs on US products especially since the US is one of the leading partners to fight the battle against COVID-19.

“There is always what’s seen and what’s unseen. By aiming to hit the US where it hurts in a trade war, the EU will end up hurting its own consumers, not only US exporters. A peaceful transatlantic trade dependency, not a destructive trade war should be the way forward,” said Maria Chaplia, CCC European Affairs Associate.

“Trade wars are a lose-lose game. Trade agreements, on the contrary, are not only rewarding because they benefit consumers on both ends, but also because they build bridges of partnership and cooperation between nations. Sometimes victory is about choosing to restrain from retaliation. Especially, when it comes to trade,” concluded Chaplia.

Should the US impose tariffs on the EU, China, Japan or others? Let us know in the comments section.

Originally published here.


About Consumer Choice Center

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Force Majeure during the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Linda Kavuka, Trade Policy Fellow, Consumer Choice Center

Blog Post

Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which first appeared in China at the end of last year, are currently over 800,000 as of April 1st 2020. What was initially seen as a largely China-centric shock has now become a global pandemic. 

Global consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have included grounding of flights and limited international travel, closure of public markets, issuance of curfews and also lock-down of countries and cities where there has been rapid spread of the virus. Governments have advised employers to allow their staff to work from home, called for closures of schools and banned all social gatherings, including religious meetings. People have been urged to observe very high levels of hygiene and to thoroughly wash hands with soap and water and use sanitizers in the alternative. 

The International business community has not been spared of the said shocks. With the end of the pandemic unclear, the economic impact is expected to be very severe globally. Considering the disruptions to international supply chains that have occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that many players in the International Trade community will be caught up with non-performance of their contractual obligations, and lawsuits shall follow. Does the COVID-19 pandemic qualify for the operation of the Force Majeure clause as a relief to affected parties?

Ordinarily, when entities and individuals trade with each other, they sign contracts that legally bind them to their agreements. The contracts list obligations of the parties and also circumstances that would call for the termination or suspension of the said obligations. One of the circumstances that could excuse non-performance or termination of a contract is legally known as “Force Majeure”, one of the standard clauses of a contract. 

Article 7.1.7 (1) of the UNIDROIT Principles defines Force Majeure as follows:

Non-performance by a party is excused if that party proves that the non-performance was due to an impediment beyond its control and that it could not reasonably be expected to have taken the impediment into account at the time of the conclusion of the contract or to have avoided or overcome it or its consequences.”

If the said Impediment is temporary the defaulting party shall be excused for a reasonable period of time. The Force Majeure Clause only takes effect where the defaulting party gives notice to the other party explaining the impediment and the impact it has had on the expected performance, otherwise the defaulting party shall be liable for damages. In order for a party to rely on the Force Majeure defense, the clause must be included in their contract contract and the impediment causing non-performance of their obligation must be expressly stated.

An example of a Force Majeure clause in a Sale Contract reads as follows:

Either party shall be relieved of all responsibility for any failure or delay for the carrying out of their obligations hereunder due to product discontinuation, manufacturer price changes, supplier price changes, changing market conditions, strikes, riots, civil unrest or an act of civil or military authority, combinations or restrictions of work, Act of God, war, insurrection, fire not caused by its act or omission or that of its servants or invitees on the property, tempest, industrial disputes, an act of a public enemy, a boycott, embargoes, failure of communications systems unavoidable accident or any other circumstances beyond its reasonable control whether or not the same be ejusedem generis with those above.”

Since Pandemics with such severe impacts are uncommon they are usually not expressly provided for in contracts. Events from the past month to date are a clear indication of a situation that is beyond control, and may lead to involuntary breach of contract by parties who fail to meet their contractual obligations. Parties that do not have Force Majeure clauses and are unable to meet their obligations can plead Frustration of Contract which defense does not require prior inclusion in their contracts.

Medical professionals around the world are working tirelessly to find a cure for the COVID-19 virus and are currently testing some combinations of medication. A fact is that we cannot forecast when things will be back to normal and the International trading markets restored. While policy focus by most affected governments has been to provide safety nets for their economies with measures such as food donations and grants to needy families, tax reductions and pay cuts for some officials, unfortunately businesses have been left to think fast and make tough decisions to remain afloat.

Time is of the essence for those who wish to rely on the Force Majeure and Frustration of contract defenses for their non-performance and a reminder that ignorance of the law is not a defense as a rule of thumb. Players of the International trade market and policy makers will all have to act in good faith for the sake of survival as we all anticipate the end of the pandemic, after-which a whole new world order shall begin.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Embracing free trade during a pandemic

Whether we will be able to get back on track on globalisation and economic liberalisation will be one of the most important tests for the post-coronavirus world. While lockdowns introduced by some governments are hopefully not going to stay there indefinitely, the perception of the role of international cooperation is likely to undergo some substantial shifts in the long run. International trade as a key instrument of promoting peace and prosperity will be a first casualty.

The EU-Mercosur agreement and the UK government’s ambition to become a global champion of free trade have become some of the most recent exciting developments. Despite a popular belief that free trade has been in decline for a couple of years, the number of new interventions implemented each year globally has sharply dropped. On the other hand, It would, of course, be desirable to see more liberalising policies instead but sometimes the absence of damaging action is sufficiently good in itself.

Graph Number of Interventions
Source: globaltradealert.org

The outbreak of COVID19 which has shattered the very roots of international cooperation also threatens this dynamic. One after another, countries have turned inwards to deal with the pandemic and shut themselves down from the rest of the world. Lockdowns are a timely reminder that in spite of globalisation – or even hyper globalisation in case of the EU – nation-states remain the driving force of global order. Where does this leave international trade?

International trade has lifted billions out of poverty and benefited consumers of all nations, races, and genders. More importantly, it has encouraged states to look beyond their borders to improve things at home through an increase in choice and lower prices as well as more export opportunities. By facilitating and sustaining integrated supply chains, the success of international trade made states mutually dependent. For better or worse, the concept of the all-producing nation-state was dissolved in international trading relationships.

Trade protectionism originated as an aspiration to achieve self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on foreign supplies. At the outset of trade interventionism, uncontrollable factors such as the possibility of crop failure in other countries were used to justify import restrictions and the subsidising of domestic agriculture. The inconsistency of such a worldview was that countries that promoted self-reliance were in no way immune to bad harvests themselves and hence had to turn to others in their hour of need. 

China is currently being affected by 6490 harmful trade interventions, the highest in the world. Ironically, the origin of COVID19 also comes from the city of Wuhan in China. President Trump – known for his extremely hostile attitude to trade with China – even called it the “Chinese virus”. It sounds like an excellent excuse to introduce more tariffs in the future, doesn’t it?

Graph Harmful
Source: globaltradealert.org

The idea of national self-sufficiency sounds great on paper but it is very hard to achieve now that we have progressed so far with globalisation. From iPhones to agriculture and vital drugs, we are dependent on other countries, and especially on China. 

Even in the EU, lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed on national levels have resulted in new border checks causing traffic jams and supply delays. “All our food is getting to the warehouses — with delays — but it’s getting there,” said Bart Vandewaetere, vice president for government relations at Nestlé. In the worst-case scenario, we would be left without food on our shelves. Hence why the first thing governments should do before imposing emergency measures is ensuring the unrestricted and smooth flow of goods. 

We will wake up to a totally different world once the pandemic is over. More countries will likely want to move the needle away from globalisation and mutual dependency to avoid the spread of new viruses in the future. Though trade cannot halt the pandemic, it can help us get through it by ensuring that essentials make it to us thus mitigating some of its consequences. At all times, we need more trade, not less.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

‘We need to create a real single market for savings’

Only a fraction of Europeans invest in stocks, while American consumers are a lot more likely to get involved in financial markets. The European Union could make strategic regulatory changes to change this for the better

With historically low interest rates, Europeans look at their savings accounts with warranted frustration. Investments in commodities are traditionally popular, particularly in times of economic uncertainty, but there is only so much that the purchase of a few ounces of gold can do for European consumers. Comparatively, stocks don’t’ have widespread appeal with consumers. The reasons for that are not cultural.

Less than 15% of Europeans (often merely 1% in Central and Eastern Europe, 15% in Germany, up to 40% in the Netherlands invest directly or indirectly in stocks. By contrast, up to half of American households have purchased stocks directly or equity through funds, most of the time as a long-term saving commitment. One reason is that while working with financial services across state lines is seemingless in the United States (think the federal 401k retirement accounts scheme), Europe is on a higher level of complication. The S&P 500 Index had an average annual growth performance of 8%. Most Europeans can only dream of such annual yields that double ones investment every nine years. The compound effects of this are even more significant. If a 29-year-old invests €40,000 at such an annual performance rate in stocks, she has €640,000 at age 65 and that does not even include additional cash injections into her investment account. For comparison the average wealth of adults in Western Europe is around €250,000 (with a much lower median wealth).

But when we think of “investors” or buying and trading stocks in Europe, we picture wealthy individuals and large corporations. But in fact, lower middle-class consumers can have their share in the world economy, and guarantee themselves long-term growth, if we ease the burdens on them purchasing stocks. Instead of propagating fear, legislators and regulators should embrace small-scale private investments, and provide consumers with information. For too long, we have seen investors painted with a broad brush. Only in popular shows such as Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den have investors anywhere near the necessary appeal towards the broader public, while in parliaments across Europe, the mere word is side-eyed with suspicion.

The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) of the European Union is looking at an upcoming overhaul. Private investment should be facilitated, not made harder through regulatory changes. Legislators should create a real single market for stock and fund investments and lower the barriers for companies offering stocks and exchange traded funds (ETF) directly to consumers.

Historically stock markets have outperformed and other kinds of saving schemes. Right now only a small faction of Europeans benefits from high single digit growth of their retirement savings. European policy makers should endorse a shareholder culture through smart regulation and stop bashing capital markets as these can deliver wealth for a broad share of European savers.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

The beef ban is what happens when climate alarmism takes hold

Earlier this week, 243 people at the London School of Economics passed a students’ union motion to introduce a ban on beef for all 11,000 of its students, making it the third university in the country to do so. And it was the perfect example of how brazen climate change alarmism causes huge problems for everyone. Feeling that you are doing your bit to help the world solve its most pressing problems has, it seems, become more important than respecting the fundamental freedom to choose.

As it happens though, the only way to tackle climate change is by embracing the latter. Students are the consumers of tomorrow, and they deserve the same consumer choice.

There is something pretentious about a minority trying to impose its views on everyone else through bans, especially when it comes to market issues. In such cases, we should always ask ourselves how it is that a group of people who we have probably never met can know what is right for me?

Such logic penetrates a wide spectrum of lifestyle regulations from smoking tobacco and cannabis to sugar. In the context of climate change, it undermines individual responsibility on a very basic level by implying that we, as individuals, do not care enough about the environment to help reduce CO2 emissions.

In reality, for better or worse, it is hard not to. Thanks to Greta Thunberg, extensive media campaigns and green deals coming from every direction, climate change has become a topic of high concern all across the world, especially in Europe and the US which, unlike China, are not the biggest global polluters. We all agree that we should be aiming to cut carbon emissions. We differ only on how we should do that.

Human nature has a tendency to be impatient. It has become popular to think that if we pass a ban, the issue will disappear overnight. That’s to say, it is assumed that if we ban beef on the campus, every student will soon stop eating meat and become climate-conscious. Such an approach might achieve some success in the short term at the expense of consumer choice, but in the long run it’s neither sustainable nor does it help save the planet.

Embracing innovative solutions, on the other hand, is a far more rewarding way forward. Developing meat substitutes is an example of one of them.

We have seen incredible advancements in the area of agriculture in the past decades, helping to make farming and consumption more sustainable. The potential of genetic engineering is very often dismissed because of unproven food safety claims and risks associated with altering the face of agriculture.

However, there is plenty of scientific evidence debunking the belief that gene-edited foods are less safe than those grown conventionally. Cutting off all beef products now means capitulating to the challenges in front of us.

Educating students about meat substitutes and their propensity to help mitigate climate change is crucial too. Popular unscientific rhetoric along with existing market restrictions (currently, products containing GMO are labelled as such) are intended to direct us away from the most innovative products.

Marketing and promotion are key in dispersing information about products, and both GMO and GMO-free products should be treated equally. Making students aware of the benefits of genetic modification would ensure that as consumers they make science-based food choices.

Banning beef on the campus of a respectable educational institution is a step backwards. The UK can do much better than this. We need to welcome innovation and provide consumers with a choice to move away from conventional food not by banning it, but by encouraging the development of meat substitutes.

Nannying students is easy; encouraging them to become responsible consumers mindful of the importance of their freedom to choose is harder, but key.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

L’Europe a besoin de politiques intelligentes pour combattre les régimes autoritaires

Le président chinois Xi Jinping et le président russe Vladimir Poutine

OPINION. L’Union européenne est confrontée à une politique active d’influence militaire, commerciale, numérique et technologique de pays menée par des régimes autoritaires comme la Chine et la Russie. Le cas de l’Ukraine ou l’implantation de la 5G par Huawei en sont des exemples. Il est nécessaire que les démocraties libérales telles que l’UE et les États-Unis contrent cette politique en utilisant les principes de l’Etat de droit. Par Yaël Ossowski, Fred Roeder et Luca Bertoletti (*).

Pendant des décennies, la stabilité politique, la croissance économique et la paix ont été indispensables pour faire de l’Europe un continent prospère et libre.

Les institutions de l’Union européenne ainsi que les différents États membres ont été à la tête de ces efforts, en libéralisant le commerce et en ouvrant les marchés pour que les consommateurs et les citoyens soient beaucoup mieux lotis. Une coopération et des échanges accrus ont grandement amélioré la vie de millions de personnes.

Questions clés

Malgré l’ampleur de ces efforts, il reste des questions clés qui devraient tous nous préoccuper en tant que citoyens de pays démocratiques. Le spectre des régimes autoritaires est encore bien réel en Europe, comme en témoignent les mouvements militaires effrontés. Un autre exemple est les influences numériques et technologiques sophistiquées dans nos infrastructures, ainsi que nos établissements politiques.

Au Hong Kong, l’État autoritaire croissant de la Chine recourt à la violence et à l’intimidation pour réprimer des manifestations découlant d’un projet de loi sur l’extradition. L’existence de camps de rééducation chinois pour un million d’Ouïghours, la minorité musulmane, a longtemps été niée, mais elle est maintenant reconnue et couverte dans la presse grand public, comme le New York Times, après des années de campagnes menées par des groupes de défense des droits de la personne.

Les vastes capacités de surveillance de l’État chinois, bien connues de sa population nationale, commencent à avoir un impact sur les citoyens européens. Ceci est une tendance inquiétante.

Salve d’ouverture

Compte tenu de l’influence économique croissante de la Chine en Europe, ces faits doivent être revus à mesure que nous mettons en œuvre de nouvelles technologies. Le débat sur l’infrastructure 5G et Huawei n’en est que la salve d’ouverture. La protection de la vie privée des consommateurs et la sécurité des données doivent être garanties: les efforts visant à les protéger en tenant compte des préoccupations de sécurité nationale lors de l’approvisionnement en technologies clés, comme l’ont fait le Royaume-Uni, la France et l’UE avec le 5G, semblent être la meilleure approche.

Mais des politiques numériques intelligentes ne seront pas efficaces si elles ne protègent pas nos démocraties des menaces réelles.

Aux frontières de l’Union européenne, l’Ukraine se reconstruit après cinq années d’invasion, de conflit et d’affaiblissement stratégique par son puissant voisin russe. Des milliers d’Ukrainiens ont perdu la vie en défendant leur territoire, et la situation reste périlleuse alors que des millions d’anciens citoyens ukrainiens vivent maintenant derrière les frontières russes. C’est souvent oublié. Et il faut tenir compte de l’influence russe dans de nombreux grands partis politiques européens, sans parler des « socialbots » lors des élections.

40% des échanges commerciaux de l’Ukraine liés à l’UE

L’attention renouvelée accordée aux ressources énergétiques et à la position géopolitique de l’Ukraine lors des auditions de destitution du président Donald Trump ne fait qu’accentuer cette tendance, et l’on peut espérer que les pays européens resteront fermes dans leur volonté d’aider le pays qui a déjà aspiré à adhérer à l’UE. L’appui non seulement diplomatique, mais aussi commercial est essentiel à cet égard. Plus de 40 % des échanges commerciaux de l’Ukraine sont directement liés à l’UE, mais ils seront bientôt éclipsés par la Chine.

Des milliers d’entreprises européennes et américaines détiennent des intérêts stratégiques en Ukraine et encore plus d’entreprises ukrainiennes dépendent entièrement de clients européens. Ces relations doivent également persévérer, malgré les menaces de la Russie et de la Chine.

La technologie électrique ukrainienne utilisée dans les conducteurs et les allumages représente près de 285 millions d’euros de commerce avec l’Allemagne, tandis que les exportations allemandes de machines et de voitures sont essentielles pour les consommateurs ukrainiens.

Association entre Chine et Russie

Une autre de ces technologies est le catapultage des aéronefs à bord d’un porte-avions à l’aide d’un moteur à induction électromagnétique. Le président Trump a bizarrement fait sauter cette innovation en déclarant qu’il préférerait les lanceurs à vapeur, qui ont été utilisés pendant des décennies. Cependant, il semble que de nombreux pays européens, dont la France, soient enthousiastes à l’idée d’adopter la nouvelle technologie.

La Chine s’est déjà engagée à utiliser des lanceurs électromagnétiques pour ses futurs porte-avions et s’associe à la Russie pour construire la prochaine génération de navires nucléaires. Cela intervient alors que la Chine est devenue le premier partenaire commercial de l’Ukraine et qu’elle augmente ses investissements sur l’ensemble du continent.

L’Europe va-t-elle se permettre d’être concurrencée ? Quel sera l’impact d’une alliance militaire plus solide entre la Chine et la Russie sur les Européens? Seul l’avenir nous le dira, et nous espérons que nos principes démocratiques nous guideront vers la prospérité et la sécurité en même temps.

Soutien diplomatique

Ce qui reste clair, c’est que les nations européennes doivent mener des politiques intelligentes pour combattre cette montée des régimes autocratiques. Des évaluations minutieuses des importations des technologies, dont la technologie de 5G et autres, seront essentielles, de même qu’un soutien diplomatique.

Les principes démocratiques tels que l’État de droit sont extrêmement importants. Les démocraties libérales telles que l’UE et les États-Unis doivent trouver une approche commune pour protéger les citoyens de l’influence croissante d’acteurs autoritaires comme le régime communiste chinois.

C’est ainsi que nous pouvons continuer à soutenir la démocratie et la prospérité dans le monde entier.

(*) Yaël Ossowski, Fred Roeder et Luca Bertoletti sont directeurs de 21Democracy, un projet de l’agence pour le Choix du Consommateur.

Publié dans La Tribune.

MERCOSUR : Le Temps des Plates Excuses

L’accord entre l’Union européenne et le Mercosur est remis en question – sous de faux prétextes. Il est temps de réaliser les vrais enjeux qu’il recouvre.

L’accord commercial entre l’Union européenne (UE) et le Mercosur (une communauté économique regroupant plusieurs pays d’Amérique du Sud) est critiqué – voire pratiquement mort selon plusieurs déclarations politiques. C’était l’intention de la France dès le début : plus de protectionnisme, moins de libre-échange.

Tout a commencé avec les feux dans l’Amazonie, au Brésil. D’après l’expert forestier et spécialiste environnemental Emmanuel Macron :

“Notre maison brûle. Littéralement. L’Amazonie, le poumon de notre planète qui produit 20% de notre oxygène, est en feu. C’est une crise internationale. Membres du G7, rendez-vous dans deux jours pour parler de cette urgence. #ActForTheAmazon”

Avec de tels appels, la chose pertinente à faire est de mettre les choses en perspective. Nous savons que le nombre d’incendies au Brésil cette année est supérieur à celui de l’an dernier, mais il est aussi à peu près le même qu’en 2016 et inférieur à 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010 et 2012.

Les données de l’Institut national de recherche spatiale du Brésil, qui collabore avec la NASA, montrent que 2019 n’est pas en décalage. Ces données sont obtenues grâce à l’analyse de l’imagerie satellitaire.

Bien que le nombre d’incendies en 2019 soit en effet 80% plus élevé qu’en 2018 – un chiffre largement rapporté ces derniers temps – il n’est supérieur que de 7% à la moyenne des dix dernières années. De plus, la plupart des incendies se produisent actuellement sur des terres déjà déboisées en Amazonie.

MERCOSUR: Feux de foret au Bresil de Janvier à Aout par année (1999-2019).

Un mythe populaire

Le mythe populaire veut que l’Amazonie soit « le poumon de la Terre », produisant « 20% de l’oxygène du monde ». C’est en tout cas ce que dit le tweet d’Emmanuel Macron. En réalité, ces deux éléments sont inexacts… et pas seulement parce que vos poumons ne produisent pas d’oxygène.

Pourtant, ce chiffre continuera de circuler tant qu’il y aura des reportages à produire ; l’agence Associated Press elle-même l’a propagé – elle a dû le retirer ensuite.

Selon le site de fact-checking Snopes :

« En fait, presque tout l’oxygène respirable de la Terre provient des océans, et il y en a assez pour durer des millions d’années. Il y a de nombreuses raisons d’être consterné par les incendies d’Amazonie de cette année, mais l’épuisement de l’approvisionnement en oxygène de la Terre n’en fait pas partie. »

Donc non, vous n’étoufferez pas à cause des incendies de l’Amazonie.

Les vraies raisons…

L’Irlande et la France proposent malgré tout de mettre fin à l’accord avec le Mercosur, pour des raisons environnementales.

Malheureusement pour elles, aucun prétexte écologiste ne pourra cacher leurs vraies motivations : défendre les intérêts protectionnistes des agriculteurs irlandais et français, qui se sont plaint d’une concurrence accrue de la part de pays comme l’Argentine.

Il faut savoir que cet accord a une grande importance géopolitique ; il constitue un signe fort contre le protectionnisme. S’il est ratifié, cet accord avec le Mercosur établirait la plus grande zone de libre-échange que l’UE ait jamais créée, couvrant une population de plus de 780 millions d’habitants, et consoliderait les liens politiques, économiques et culturels étroits entre ces deux zones.

L’accord élimine les droits de douane sur 93% des exportations vers l’UE et accorde un « traitement préférentiel » aux 7% restants. De plus, il supprimera à terme les droits de douane sur 91% des marchandises que les entreprises de l’UE exportent vers le Mercosur.

Le nombre de plaintes officielles présentées à l’OMC en 2018 était de 122% supérieur à celui de 2009. En 2018, l’UE était le deuxième plus gros défenseur des plaintes à l’OMC, soit près de deux fois plus que la Chine.

L’importance de la Chine

Ce pays n’est pas cité au hasard. Il est crucial de comprendre l’influence chinoise sur le terrain sud-américain.

Depuis 2005, la China Development Bank et la China Export-Import Bank ont consenti plus de 141 Mds$ en prêts à des pays et à des entreprises appartenant aux Etats d’Amérique latine et des Caraïbes.

En Amérique latine et ailleurs dans le monde, les prêts chinois sont considérés à la fois comme une recherche de profit et comme une forme de diplomatie.

La Banque de développement se concentre sur huit domaines : électricité, construction de routes, chemins de fer, pétrole, charbon, télécommunications, agriculture et services publics.

Avec cet accord, il devient possible de contrer l’influence chinoise. La France et l’Irlande doivent cesser de s’y opposer et travailler sur un accord commun en Europe.

Donner plus de choix aux consommateurs, garantir plus de libre-échange pour les producteurs des deux côtés et défendre les intérêts géopolitiques par le biais de la politique commerciale : tout cela devrait être évident. Il semble malheureusement que ne plus rien n’est évident, pour la classe politique actuelle…

Originally published here.


Pour en savoir plus sur l’accord MERCOSUR, consultez notre infographie ici.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Transatlantic dialogue and not tariff war is the future of EU-US relationship

The World Trade Organization today has published a ruling giving the US the green light to impose punitive tariffs on the EU over the tariff on the EU subsidies for Airbus.

Luca Bertoletti, Senior European Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center says: “We hope policy makers will consider rejecting the use of tariffs to escalate the dispute between Airbus and Boeing. These tariffs will not only hurt the aerospace industry but also many other sectors and especially consumers. As there is a new European Parliament and very soon a new European Commission this is the right time for both EU and USA to bury the axe of war and restart the transatlantic dialogue” continued Bertoletti.

“The EU-US relationship is the strongest of the world and it should be based on common market challenges such as how to deal with growing authoritarianism in China, not on a commercial war among free nations which will just hurt consumers” concluded Bertoletti.

Originally posted here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

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