The rapid rise of populist politics is often cited as a reaction to globalisation. But the success of campaigns like the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum actually came after a period of pronounced slowing of globalisation.

new report released today by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney examines the levels of openness in Australia and the United States and suggests that a reduction in economic dynamism, not rampant globalisation, is the key driver behind the success of recent populist campaigns.

“It’s necessary to put the openness and international connectedness of the Australian economy into historical and comparative perspective. Understanding these trends is important for public perceptions of globalisation and how these perceptions inform public policy,” report author and director of the Centre's Trade and Investment Program Dr Stephen Kirchner says.

“Restrictions on trade and other cross-border flows should only be put in place where there is clear public policy rationale and benefit and not at the behest of sectional interests seeking protection from international competition.”

Key points

  • A lack of economic dynamism, and not globalisation itself, is driving anti-globalisation sentiment.
  • Globalisation in Australia peaked in 2010-11 with the terms of trade boom and has declined since then.
  • Australia can recapture the social and economic benefits of globalisation by lowering tariff barriers, pursuing bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements, lowering the corporate tax rate to 25 per cent and increasing the size of Australia’s permanent migration program.

View report

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