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Deglobalization Will Hurt Growth Everywhere

Even if the United States turns a blind eye to deglobalization’s effects on the rest of the world, it should remember that the current abundant demand for dollar assets depends heavily on the vast trade and financial system that some American politicians aim to shrink. If deglobalization goes too far, no country will be spared.

CAMBRIDGE – The post-pandemic world economy seems likely to be a far less globalized economy, with political leaders and publics rejecting openness in a manner unlike anything seen since the tariff wars and competitive devaluations of the 1930s. And the byproduct will be not just slower growth, but a significant fall in national incomes for all but perhaps the largest and most diversified economies.

In his prescient 2001 book The End of Globalization, the Princeton economic historian Harold James showed how an earlier era of global economic and financial integration collapsed under the pressures of unexpected events during the Great Depression of the 1930s, culminating in World War II. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be accelerating another withdrawal from globalization.

The current retreat began with Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election, which led to tariff wars between the United States and China. The pandemic will likely have an even larger negative long-term impact on trade, partly because governments increasingly recognize that they need to regard public-health capacity as a national-security imperative.

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