Westerners are taking the benefits of globalisation for granted

Julian Harris
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Donald Trump has turned the Republican party away from free market globalism (Source: Getty)

One of the many bizarre political twists of recent years has seen conservative leaders and voters take a less favourable approach to globalisation and free markets than some of their left-leaning rivals.

Across the pond the Republicans have provided the most glaring example by electing a nationalist tariff-enthusiast, but even on this side it has been amusing to observe left-wing anti-Brexiters fret about the impact on trade and growth while certain Tories prioritise British sovereignty.

Globally, we now have a situation in which America's political leaders and voters are significantly more pessimistic about globalisation than their counterparts in China – an eventuality that would have seemed incredible during the Reagan era. A recent worldwide survey asked more than a thousand economists to what extent they agreed with this statement: "Globalisation has reached the limits of its acceptance among the wider population of my country." In China, just 7.7 per cent agreed. In the US the figure was 70.4 per cent.

The data, published yesterday by the Ifo Institute in Munich, gives a fascinating snapshot of attitudes towards globalisation. Overall, wealthy industrial nations are far more likely to take a dim view of globalisation compared to people in poorer parts of the world. There are some exceptions, however. Scandinavia, so often misdescribed as a hotbed of socialism, has the most positive attitudes towards globalisation in Europe. Anti-globalisation sentiment in Sweden is just 7.1 per cent, and 27.3 per cent in Norway. In the UK, it is 67.5 per cent. In France, 85.2 per cent.

The survey also contrasts perceived economic problems in advanced economies with those in emerging and developing states. History shows that growth has been greater in countries with a strong rule of law, enforceable property rights, accountable government and relatively low barriers to entrepreneurship, trade and foreign investment. It is thus sad but unsurprising that economists in less wealthy areas are still more concerned with corruption (74.5 per cent v 28.6 per cent in advanced economies), "legal and administrative barriers for business" (64.7 per cent v 36.4 per cent), unforgivable climates for foreign investors (55.4 per cent v 28.1 per cent) and, indeed, trade barriers to exports (49.4 per cent v 34.3 per cent).

In the west we are extremely lucky to have enjoyed the benefits of free trade. While it is a shame that these advantages are now being taken for granted, it is also heartening to see people in poorer countries adopt a more positive attitude towards the opportunities that stem from an open approach to the world.

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