Is globalisation finished?
The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States crystallised fears among sections of the financial elite that the world economy was beginning to spin towards a new era of protectionism. During his campaign Trump used rhetoric that echoed right-wing populist parties elsewhere in the developed world. In its most virulent form, trade protectionism was conjoined with anti-immigrant discourse aimed at Mexicans and other Latinos “south of the border”. The message was designed to appeal to workers disaffected and distanced from the neoliberal elite whose free trade policies had supposedly caused job losses as employers sought cheaper labour abroad. The message worked for Trump, as the Democrats had no place to hide from the suggestion that they were to blame.
Since he took office, Trump’s tilt towards protectionism has caused a row within Washington. He has withdrawn the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (aimed at competition with China) and plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and to drop the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the European Union. According to one source the disagreements are akin to “a civil war…within the White House over trade, leading to what one official called ‘a fiery meeting’ in the Oval Office pitting economic nationalists close to Donald Trump against pro-trade moderates from Wall Street”.1 Writing in the Financial Times in May 2017 Martin Wolf states that Trump “appears to be intent on replacing multilateralism with bilateralism, liberalism with protection and predictability with unpredictability”.2