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The Future of Globalisation Current

business and industry , development and aid , economy , finance , globalisation , trade , world politics



IPPR is conducting a major piece of work on the future of globalisation, led by Lord Mandelson, former EU trade commissioner and UK cabinet minister. New IPPR analysis will be supplemented by commissioned research from global experts, and seminars around the world including in Brazil, India and China.


Globalisation was the dominant economic discourse of the 1990s and 2000s, as international trade increased rapidly (facilitated in part by successful WTO negotiations), global capital became more mobile, regions such as the EU pursued economic and monetary union, and new technology significantly reduced transport and communication costs.

But in recent years, faith in economic globalisation has seemed to falter. The global financial and economic crises of 2008–09 not only demonstrated the perils of economic integration, but also led to a collapse in world trade, and (in some countries) a policy retreat from free trade and open markets as governments sought to protect domestic industries.

Free trade and open markets have always been subject to debate among progressives. There is a general economic consensus that a broadly liberal approach to international trade is good for growth and for development in poorer countries – and the experience of China over the last two decades has underlined this conclusion. But there is also uneasiness about the unequal distribution of the benefits of globalisation, the fact that it can create losers as well as winners, and the problem of finding a good mechanism for re-distributing from the latter to the former. There has also been considerable debate about the implications of the unequal economic and political power of rich and poor countries, the distributional impacts of trade within countries, and about the policy frameworks required to ensure that trade is consistent with objectives including human rights, decent work and environmental protection.

It is therefore timely renew commitment to free trade and open markets, in economic, policy and political terms. Globalisation has to be supported but it needs to be re-thought for a new economic and political era.

This is particularly important in the UK. The UK is an open economy, a centre of global capital, firmly integrated into a much larger economic bloc in the EU, and a key player in global economic governance institutions. In these circumstances economic policy must be seen as a ‘cross-border’ issue, but too often economic policy discussions are cast in purely domestic terms. New thinking is needed in the UK economic policy debate about globalisation.

Project detail

This work will seek to answer five key questions:

  • Why should progressives support free trade and globalisation?
  • How can trade and open markets deliver maximum economic benefits for the world’s poorest countries, and help them to deliver sustainable development for their people?
  • How do domestic policy frameworks in developed countries (including industrial policy, fiscal policy, labour market regulation, skills and education, and immigration) need to change to ensure both that developed economies can remain competitive and that trade delivers on progressive values at home?
  • How do global and European economic institutions need to change to respond to the changing balance of economic and political power between regions and countries in order to deliver solutions to global economic challenges including trade liberalisation and global imbalances?
  • How can the case for a free trade and open markets be made in a new economic and political era?