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The Hidden Threat to Globalization: Foreign Affairs

The Hidden Threat to Globalization: Foreign Affairs
Making garments in Gurgaon, India, July 2015 Anindito Mukherjee / Reuters

Globalization has lost its shine in wealthy countries, particularly among low-skilled workers. From 2002 to 2018, for instance, support for free trade fell significantly in Japan, the United States, and many European countries, driven largely by rising hostility toward free trade among the poor and working classes.

Among low-skilled workers in Italy, opposition to free trade grew from nine percent to 28 percent during that period, and it more than tripled among the same group in France. Disapproval among this demographic more than doubled in Japan and in the United States, causing overall support for free trade to fall by more than ten

ten percentage points in those countries. The rising opposition to free trade has fueled successful, inward-looking populist movements, most strikingly in the United Kingdom and the United States.

The reasons for the growing hostility vary, but the most politically potent charge is that globalization has hurt workers in rich countries in order to help those in poorer ones. Donald Trump, for example, won the U.S. presidency in 2016 in part by arguing that Americans were losing their jobs to workers in China, India, and Mexico—what he termed the “greatest job theft in the history of the world.” Marine Le Pen, currently polling second in France’s coming national election, declared during her 2017 campaign that trade with developing economies “has been devastating to the French and European industries” and has “led to the destruction of millions of European jobs.”

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