The Backlash against Globalization: What’s Next?

A Report from the Niehaus Center for Globalization & Governance
Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
July 2022

This report summarizes the findings from a workshop on the anti-globalization backlash, held at Princeton in May 2022, and exploring how best to understand the domestic political dynamics that drive governments’ foreign economic policies.

During the last decade, governments worldwide have taken steps to limit their countries’ engagement with the global economy, via increased barriers to the movement of goods, services, capital and people. Most visible among these are the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and the United States’ 2017 implementation of tariffs against a wide range of Chinese products (many of which remain in place). These policy shifts often are attributed to the growing political salience of anti-globalization attitudes. The growing hostility of some elites and some mass publics also manifests itself in declining support for the pillars of the “liberal international order,” such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund.

As the first quarter of the twenty-first century draws to a close, global economic integration faces many challenges. These include the COVID-19 pandemic and associated nationalism surrounding PPE and vaccines; Russia’s war in Ukraine and the hesitancy of some governments to take more decisive action to cut Russia’s access to export revenues; and the fragility of geographically dispersed supply chain production. But these are symptoms, rather than causes, of a longer-term erosion of support for global economic integration. To understand the prospects for the future of the global economy, and for a renewal of multilateral efforts to govern that economy, we must understand mass and elite politics within countries – not only the US or other wealthy nations, but also in newly-assertive large developing countries (China, India), and in emerging and frontier markets more generally.