Globalization and Its Discontents


A little good cheer from The Guardian's Bill Emmott on the future of free trade, during this primary season of anti-NAFTA trash-talking:

A year ago, the prime candidate for a protectionist backlash was the fount of globalisation itself, the United States. If anyone had said then that in the midst of the American presidential election the country would be suffering a recession caused by a financial crisis, most economists would have predicted a big upsurge in protectionism during the campaign. It is time to admit that this hasn't happened. America is not becoming isolationist. In fact, globalisation is not under any serious threat at all, from either side of the Atlantic.

And when Obama wins the nomination, there's good reason to hope the trade issue will fade to a mere whisper:

John McCain, the Republican candidate, is a firm advocate of free trade, so Obama might choose to sound protectionist in order to emphasise the difference between them. But that is unlikely; since McCain is a clear, lifelong free trader, Obama needs to sound only a little critical on trade to differentiate himself.

That sounds about right to me. (There are those, of course, who question just how free-tradealicious McCain really is, but he's sounding pretty good these days.)

For the pessimistic take, go here.