asian merchant Jeff Hutchens | getty images

Trade in a Time of Protectionism

South Asian countries like Sri Lanka cannot expect the rest of the world to welcome our economic ambitions, as it once did Japan's, China's, or South Korea's. With free trade the scapegoat of choice among the world’s populists and demagogues, the region must come to rely much more on its own integration.

COLOMBO – As China’s economy slows and growth in the developed world remains anemic, governments across Asia are working to keep their economies on an upward trajectory. In Sri Lanka, where I am Prime Minister, the challenge is to find a way to accelerate our already steady economic growth.

One thing is clear: We cannot expect the rest of the world to welcome our economic ambitions the way it once opened its arms to China’s rapid rise as an economic power or – in earlier decades – cheered on the growth of Japan and the so-called Asian Tigers, including South Korea.

Today, we Asians are witnessing, on an almost daily basis, fierce political assaults on the tools and policies that have helped lift hundreds of millions of our citizens out of poverty. Indeed, this year, free trade appears to be the scapegoat of choice among the world’s assorted populists and demagogues.

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