The Return of Economic Nationalism in Germany



Jeromin Zettelmeyer | Peterson Institute for International Economics

The recent embrace of economic nationalism by the United States, China, and many other countries reflects a global shift toward protectionism, restrictions on foreign investment, and aggressive state intervention in domestic economies. These policies are not new—they were invented by today’s industrial world in the 18th and 19th centuries, ran wild in the 1930s, were widely applied in developing countries since the 1940s, and have enjoyed new popularity in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Germany, however, seemed to be an
exception—influenced perhaps by its postwar ordoliberal tradition, its dependence on international trade, and a strong political commitment to multilateralism.

Germany’s new National Industrial Strategy 2030, unveiled by Economy Minister Peter Altmaier in February 2019, upends that view (Altmaier 2019). To the shock of many German commentators, particularly on the center-right, the document advocates an aggressive industrial policy. And although it stays clear of the virulent economic nationalism of the 1930s and the protectionism of US President Donald
Trump, its tone and much of its content are unmistakably nationalist (in either a German or an EU sense).

German Nationalism

[To read the original policy brief, click here.]

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