A backlash to globalization appears to be gaining strength around the world. U.S. politicians on both the right and left have called for curbing free trade deals they say benefit foreigners or the global elite. President-elect Donald Trump has championed tariffs on imports and limits on immigration, and suggested withdrawing from international alliances and trade agreements. Meanwhile, populist and nationalist governments have gained ground in Europe and Asia, and voters in Britain have elected to withdraw from the European Union.
To some, it looks ominously like another moment in history – the period leading up to World War I, which marked the end of a multi-decade expansion in global ties that many call the first era of globalization.
In a recent report, Josh Feinman, the chief global economist for Deutsche Asset Management, says that the world could see a substantial backsliding to globalization in decades to come. After all, he writes, we have seen it happen before, in the years of chaos and isolationism that encompassed the First and Second World Wars and the Great Depression.
“The first great globalization wave, in the half-century or so before WWI, sparked a populist backlash too, and ultimately came crashing down in the cataclysms of 1914 to 1945,” says Feinman.