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Today’s Nationalism is Bad for Business

Multilateralism and global cooperation are under increasing threat, posing a serious risk to future prosperity. Business and finance leaders should care deeply about this state of affairs, so why aren't they doing much more to help counter it?

NEW YORK – The system of international cooperation that emerged from the ashes of World War II is at risk. Multilateralism and the institutions that support it – including the World Trade Organization, the United Nations, and the European Union – are being called into question as more countries embrace inward-looking nationalism, leading in some cases to political instability and even conflict. So why aren’t business and finance leaders doing much more to combat these troubling trends?

Postwar history shows that global economic integration – including freer trade and higher cross-border investment – helps markets and societies to prosper, with health, education, and life expectancy improving significantly in many parts of the world. True, globalization has also produced major societal imbalances, which are fueling popular discontent. But rejecting it, as a growing number now do, threatens the very system that has helped to create wealth, combat poverty, and expand the ranks of the global middle class.

Business and finance have arguably benefited the most from the open, rules-based international political and economic order. Yet CEOs and chairpersons rarely use their influential voices to defend multilateralism and global cooperation.

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