AS POLITICAL theatre, America’s party conventions have no parallel. Activists from right and left converge to choose their nominees and celebrate conservatism (Republicans) and progressivism (Democrats). But this year was different, and not just because Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party. The conventions highlighted a new political faultline: not between left and right, but between open and closed (see article). Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, summed up one side of this divide with his usual pithiness. “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” he declared. His anti-trade tirades were echoed by the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party.
Trump and Sanders sound identical on trade.
Start by remembering what is at stake. The multilateral system of institutions, rules and alliances, led by America, has underpinned global prosperity for seven decades. It enabled the rebuilding of post-war Europe, saw off the closed world of Soviet communism and, by connecting China to the global economy, brought about the greatest poverty reduction in history.
Indeed a lot at stake.
Countering the wall-builders will require stronger rhetoric, bolder policies and smarter tactics. First, the rhetoric. Defenders of the open world order need to make their case more forthrightly. They must remind voters why NATO matters for America, why the EU matters for Europe, how free trade and openness to foreigners enrich societies, and why fighting terrorism effectively demands co-operation. Too many friends of globalisation are retreating, mumbling about “responsible nationalism”. Only a handful of politicians—Justin Trudeau in Canada, Emmanuel Macron in France—are brave enough to stand up for openness. Those who believe in it must fight for it.
They must also acknowledge, however, where globalisation needs work. Trade creates many losers, and rapid immigration can disrupt communities. But the best way to address these problems is not to throw up barriers. It is to devise bold policies that preserve the benefits of openness while alleviating its side-effects.
Let goods and investment flow freely, but strengthen the social safety-net to offer support and new opportunities for those whose jobs are destroyed. To manage immigration flows better, invest in public infrastructure, ensure that immigrants work and allow for rules that limit surges of people (just as global trade rules allow countries to limit surges in imports). But don’t equate managing globalisation with abandoning it.
A good prescription.