2003 sees the Axis saddled with an inordinately large public sector, highly restrictive labor legislation, excessive social costs, and a demographic time-bomb in the impending retirement of the baby-boomers (neither country has significant private sector pension arrangements.) Naturally, therefore, the Axis reaction to changes in the world economy is very different to that of more economically self-confident countries such as Britain and the United States.
-- Globalization, an increase in world trade, is a threat, because it exposes their over-manned and inefficient industries to competition.
-- The emergence of new economic powers, such as China and India, is an enormous threat, because the new markets have little interest in French and German products and expertise. Thus they represent a threat to France and Germany's economic position, not a growth opportunity; as they grow in importance, France and Germany must shrink.
-- The entry into the EU of Eastern Europe seems likely to produce the "giant sucking sound" predicted for the U.S. by Ross Perot, as jobs leave the Axis for the much cheaper and equally skilled workforces to the East. In addition, the EU budget, subsidized by Germany and hugely benefiting France, will be turned upside down by the entry of poorer countries with large agricultural sectors.
-- The emergence of new investment opportunities, and possibly dynamic growth in world stock markets, is of no interest to the Axis; their citizens depend on the state for their pensions, and invest their savings in bonds and real estate, not equities.
In short, to the Axis, world economic growth and opening are not the positive sum game they appear to others; they are not even a zero sum game. They are instead a negative sum game, a mortal threat that must be fought at all costs.