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Quick Take: What France's Presidential Election Means

Matthew Rooney, director of the George W. Bush Institute’s Economic Growth Initiative, gives his overview of the election of Emmanuel Macron as France’s new president, focusing on what the election means in terms of the heated international debate over protectionism versus liberalizing trading relationships.

Article by Matthew Rooney May 9, 2017 //   2 minute read
Photo by Lorie Shaul

It is easy to read too much into election outcomes, and especially tempting in the case of France’s presidential election. Nonetheless, given the two candidates and the lopsided nature of the result, it seems clear that French voters rejected a nativist-isolationist-protectionist course for their nation in favor of an Europeanist-globalist approach that is committed to ensuring that the open economy model promotes and sustains a strong middle class.  

Emmanuel Macron now has five years to prove that his approach works.  It is perhaps ironic that France is cast as the leading defender of an open global economy, though – just as only Richard Nixon could have gone to China and only Bill Clinton could have reformed welfare – a French approach to globalization will almost certainly be immune to populist criticism, whether from the left or the right. 

Mr. Macron’s impact on Europe may turn out to be greater due to what won’t happen while he is in office:  France will not withdraw from the Euro or from NATO’s military command, and there will not be a move to pull France out of the European Union.  

Still, the forces pulling the EU apart are powerful.  If Mr. Macron is to have an affirmative impact on strengthening the European project, he will need to work closely with his German counterpart to ensure that the less prosperous parts of Europe see benefits.