America should not complain about Europe
Jean-Francois Deniau is a former French minister of trade. Once again, the relations between the United States and Europe are going through a rather difficult phase. Perhaps even more difficult than in the past because:
* We all are in a crisis with serious internal social problems and it is, of course, easier to make adjustments in periods of strong growth;
* This time round, to the traditional differences of interest in commercial problems is added a possible conflict of economic doctrines;
* Economic differences are combining more and more with political uncertainty in Europe and this is the most dangerous aspect of the present situation: the mixture of politics with economics, hard feelings in one area feed the accusations in the other. As a result there is the risk of a kind of ''inflationary spiral'' leading to a hardening and spreading of transatlantic quarrels.
To avoid feeding such an escalation, the first task is to try not to blame others for the consequences of one's own decisions. The temptation and the risk exist on both sides of the Atlantic.
America has chosen a policy characterized by a high value of the dollar and very high interest rates. It is an essential element of its plan, hence two natural consequences: first, the US market becomes interesting for European exporters, in particular steel exporters, which was not the case when the value of the dollar was much lower; second, on other markets (particularly in the third world), the large gap between export credit rates is hurting US exports.
All right, we can talk about that, but on the US side one should not complain , and in particular not complain about the Europeans for what is the obvious consequence of strictly American decisions.
It is classical in politics to try to have one's cake and eat it too. But it is going really too far when one eats one's cake while still wanting to have it and then turns around to accuse others of eating it!
On the European side, there is a serious risk of a ''scapegoat'' policy developing. After the Socialist victory in France, the new government there embarked on a policy of increased budget deficit, stimulation of the economy through demand, and the transformation of production structures through increased state control.
Anticipating the possibility of this policy's failure (which, by the way, is contrary to what France's main partners are presently doing) the French government has named the scapegoats: the bankers, senior civil servants, and, of course, the Americans. No. If the French people chose that policy (and I regret it) it is their choice. To say ''it is someone else's fault'' can only worsen the situation without increasing the chances for success.
It is always too easy to try to guard one's good conscience by trying to create a bad one in others. In today's political and economic circumstances it is especially dangerous at a time when the unity of Europe, the East-West security balance, relations with the third world require the greatest consultation and also a strengthening of existing cooperation arrangements.