French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has called on his countrymen to buy domestic products as the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak cripples the European single market. Describing his approach as “economic patriotism,” he urged French supermarkets to ‘stock French products.’

The call didn’t go unheard. Following the minister’s remarks on Tuesday, the trade body representing French supermarkets vowed to stock up shelves exclusively with fruits and vegetables produced within France once the foreign products run out, the newspaper Les Echos reported.

The French move comes at a time when the 27 member European Union single market faces a massive supply chain crisis in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Many of the EU member states have set up border controls to restrict the export of food and essential medical supplies to neighboring countries.

Italy and Spain, worst hit by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, have been urging Brussels and fellow EU members for assistance. These calls have largely gone unheeded. With the death toll crossing 10,000 and 6,500 mark respectively, Italy and Spain are in urgent need of medical supplies. France and Germany, two of the EU’s biggest economies, have responded by banning the export of protective medical gear.

The TV network France24 reported French finance minister’s statement:

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the eurozone’s economy, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire issued a rallying cry to the nation’s supermarkets on 24 March: ‘Stock French products!’

Supermarkets in France have heeded the call for what Le Maire termed “economic patriotism”. French supermarket chain Carrefour has already moved to source 95% of its fruits and vegetables from within France. The supermarket industry’s trade body, La Féderation du Commerce et de la Distribution, told French business daily Les Echos that once fresh foreign produce runs out on French supermarket shelves, it won’t be replaced.

“Delegating our food supply […] to others is madness. We have to take back control,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech just two weeks before Le Maire announced the economic measures.

But for a continent that has built an intricate agro-food market connected by cross-border supply chains, France’s plea to focus inwards for its food supply is a cause for concern for Brussels.

The European single market, established in 1993, allows people, goods, and capital to move around the EU as though it were a single country, at least in principle. The arrangement discourages, and often prevents under the threat of sanctions, the member states from imposing laws and regulations favoring their domestic manufacturers and businesses. But with the coronavirus pandemic shifting its epicenter to Europe, these globalist principles face one of its toughest challenges in its three-decade history.

The economic nationalism embraced by the French government is hypocritical to say the least. French President Emmanuel Macron has been among the sharpest critics ‘America First’ policy followed by U.S. President Donald Trump. “By pursuing our own interests first, with no regard to others’, we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values,” Macron declared when the U.S. president joined him at the ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of First World War in November 2018.

France is not the only EU country to rediscover economic nationalism amid the coronavirus outbreak. Germany was among the first European countries to close the borders, not only to stop the movement of people and curb the outbreak, but also to prevent the French, Poles, or Austrians in neighboring provinces from panic-buying in German supermarkets, the Berlin-based daily Die Welt reported on March 15.

The coronavirus crisis exposes the glaring hypocrisy of the European political class. Having slandered and ridiculed President Trump for his ‘American First’ policy for years, Germany, France, and other leading EU powers have themselves resorted to economic nationalism in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

EU leaders at ‘loggerheads’ over economic response to coronavirus

[Cover image via YouTube]

 

 
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