As Donald Trump pulls ahead in the presidential race, will 2016 be seen as the high water mark for globalisation?

Trump has said it might be time for the US to pull out of the World Trade Organization (Source: Getty)

John Bew, professor at the war studies department at King’s College, London and lead of the Britain in the World project at Policy Exchange, says Yes.

The world has never been more interconnected but globalisation has not been the happy process that many presumed. Potent forces like nationalism, ethnic rivalry and religious sectarianism are making a comeback. Democracies are on the retreat – even the strongest are having a crisis of self-confidence – and totalitarianism has had a resurgence. Even in the western countries that have done best from globalisation, there is a backlash against its effects, seen in a populist anti-elite wave of politics. This, as much as anything, explains the rise of Donald Trump. At its most extreme, anti-globalisation sentiment has been tied up with violent extremism, overlapping with trends such as religious revivals. The reach of the internet is far and wide but it’s been manipulated or controlled by governments and other groups which don’t share a sunny view of globalisation. In the coming years, we are likely to see more closed societies, more censorship and more economic protectionism.

Alan Mendoza, executive director of The Henry Jackson Society, says No.

It is tempting at moments of political dislocation to create order from what appears to be chaos through the creation of a grand theory explaining them. Such theories are usually wrong. Predicting the high water mark of globalisation is one of these. History’s march in the past several centuries has been remorselessly in one direction: increased globalisation. Our world was opened up physically by exploration, and then technologically by advances making it easier to communicate, collaborate and trade with one another. Unsurprisingly, we responded. Of course there have been periods of uncertainty and conflict when atavistic tendencies prevailed, but these have been followed by even greater bursts of interconnectivity. Later this century, developing parts of the world in Africa and Asia will come of age, and the full force of a new technological revolution will be felt. A President Trump could no more hold the tide of globalisation back than King Canute could the waves of his original seaside experiment.

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