G7 Protests Joerg Koch/Getty Images

The New Backlash Against Globalization

There was a palpable sense of discomfort at the latest G7 summit meeting in Ise-Shima, Japan. By the time the leaders of the world’s major developed economies meet again, there is no telling which of them will be populist insurgents.

PRINCETON – There was a palpable sense of discomfort at the latest G7 summit meeting in Ise-Shima, Japan. By the time the leaders of the world’s major developed economies meet again, there is no telling which of them will be populist insurgents. President Donald Trump could be representing the United States, or President Marine Le Pen could be representing France. They could be sitting down with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Beppe Grillo, or even German Chancellor Frauke Petry. All of them would be championing nationalism and isolationism, in one form or another.

The backlash against globalization has been with us for two decades. In the late twentieth century, it looked as if the world was moving toward convergence, with people everywhere consuming the same products. McDonalds exemplified that kind of globalization, and smashing up the chain’s stores became a standard form of anti-globalization protest.

But lately, the character of globalization has been changing, and so has the backlash against it. Though the world is still becoming more interconnected, there is a sense that we understand foreign people less. In response to changing – and increasingly particular – consumer preferences, companies are relocating production closer to the markets where the goods will be sold. This has weakened growth in international trade.

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