"I was really shocked when I read the Financial Times this morning that one of the candidates was pleading for more national champions and more protectionist action," huffed Neelie Kroes, competition commissioner of the European Union.
"It is outdated to talk about national champions. It is outdated to talk about protectionism."
Well, these ideas may be outdated at the EU Commission that sits in Brussels. But they are making a comeback in France, where Nicolas Sarkozy, the leading candidate for the French presidency, has emerged as an unabashed economic patriot.
Kroes was reacting to a FT report on a speech in Lille where Sarkozy ripped into the takeover of Arcelor, Europe's largest steelmaker, by Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian steel magnate. A "mistake," declared Sarkozy:
"Look at the waste of Arcelor, which we sold off on the cheap because we believed the steel industry was history. They got it wrong. They lied." Calling free trade a policy of naivete, Sarkozy promised an "industrial policy." He has in mind retaining industry and restoring manufacturing jobs to a France that has been losing both.
France's economic destiny cannot be left to the market, he told young entrepreneurs in Paris. Gen. de Gaulle himself, said Sarkozy, decided France must go nuclear for self-sufficiency. Today, 59 French nuclear plants today produce 78 percent of France's electricity, and France is the largest exporter of nuclear electricity in the European Union.
Was de Gaulle's decision a mistake? Would that the United States had gone forward, despite Three Mile Island, and done likewise.
Sarkozy sounds like a Hamiltonian. He believes in markets. He understands markets. But the country comes first. Decisions that affect the sovereignty and economic independence of the nation are not to be left to the invisible hand of a market that promises only the most efficient result, now, and not necessarily what is best for the nation.
Kroes, a Eurocrat, insists she is not trying to interfere in France's election. Yet her spokesman warns that should President Sarkozy pursue the proposals of Candidate Sarkozy, France will be confronted by the EU:
"You cannot prevent anyone saying they want a protectionist policy, but you can tackle it, if they take concrete measures," the spokesman said. Kroes "does not accept any kind of artificial obstacles to cross-border investment and takeovers, and we have demonstrated on numerous occasions that we will intervene."
Consider not only what was said here -- that the EU will confront a French president who acts in France's economic interests -- but the tone.
Do we Americans, too, wish to live in a world where unelected transnational bureaucrats speak imperiously to U.S. presidents on what we may and may not do to restore the old self-sufficiency and independence of the United States? Because that is where we are headed -- with NAFTA, the World Trade Organization and the North American Union agreed to by Bush, Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2005, under the rubric of "The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America."
As we see clearly now, from the evolution of the European Coal and Steel Community of half a century ago to the EU of today, free trade is the Trojan horse of global government. A cornucopia of consumer goods is the Faustian bribe that is offered to nations for the surrender of their souls, and to peoples for the surrender of their sovereignty.
The Treaties of Rome, 50 years ago, birthed the European Economic Community, or Common Market, a free-trade zone of Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux Union. This evolved into the European Community.
In 1992, with the Maastricht Treaty, the European Union was born of the EC. Eurocrats now seek ruling power over the 27 EU nations with a combined GDP equal to that of the United States through ratification of a new European constitution they have drawn up.
French and Dutch patriots, however, voted that constitution down.
Sarkozy, in these last weeks before the first round of voting in the presidential election, is also taking a tough line against the Third World rioters at the Gare du Nord, the train station to the suburban banlieus where the African and Arab immigrants and illegal aliens live in tightly packed communities.
Financial Times columnist Chris Caldwell sees Sarkozy taking a page from the Nixon playbook of the 1960s, when, in a time of urban riots and campus uprisings, Nixon appealed to Middle America and the Great Silent Majority to stand by him.
The struggle that succeeds the Cold War may not be vertical at all -- i.e., between nation-states -- but horizontal, between patriots of all nations and transnational elites, like Kroes and her fellow commissioners.
Free trade and globalization are beginning to look like yesterday's stocks. Patriotism and protectionism are making a comeback.
Keep an eye on Monsieur Sarkozy. His election could bring a "France First!" presidency that would inspire imitators everywhere and further imperil the great project of our transnational elite.