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Globalization Needs Rebuilding, Not Just Repair

If US President Donald Trump is defeated on November 3, there will be no lack of eagerness to erase his international economic legacy. Policymakers should focus on taking care of global public goods, containing the weaponization of economic relations, and making the international system fairer.

PARIS – A second term for US President Donald Trump would complete the demolition of the post-war international economic system. Trump’s aggressive unilateralism, chaotic trade initiatives, loathing of multilateral cooperation, and disregard for the very idea of a global commons would overpower the resilience of the web of rules and institutions that underpin globalization. But would a victory for Joe Biden lead to a repair of the global system – and, if so, of what kind? This is a much harder question to answer.

There will be no lack of eagerness to erase Trump’s legacy, either in the United States or internationally. But an attempt merely to restore the pre-Trump status quo would fail to address major challenges, some of which contributed to Trump’s election in 2016. As Adam Posen of the Peterson Institute has pointed out, the task ahead is one of rebuilding, rather than repair. It should start with a clear identification of the problems that the international system must tackle.

The first priority should be to move toward a commons-oriented system. The preservation of global public goods such as a stable climate or biodiversity was understandably ignored by the architects of the post-war international economic order, and (less understandably) was still a secondary priority in the system’s post-Cold War partial renewal. Policymakers focused on visible linkages through trade and capital flows, rather than on the invisible ties that bind us to a common destiny, which helps to explain why the rules and institutions governing the latter are still much weaker.

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