Protestors were arrested in Brussels recently for pelting trade officials with confetti, upset over the latest round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment (TTIP) negotiations between the European Union and the United States. There was a time when such a protest over a global trade agreement would have seemed comical, but in today’s hyper-charged political and economic environment it’s not a laughing matter.
In countries around the world, there’s a reaction underway rejecting globalization. TTIP is just the latest target for those opposed to further integration of the global economy. Needless to say, with headlines filled with reports of terror attacks, attempted coups, and social strife, we live in difficult, contentious times. Protestations over trade agreements are symptomatic of something more onerous.
Why is this the case? Part of the problem lies with politicians who have poorly described the benefits of free trade and globalization to the broad population. Their poor communication has resulted in a backlash from large swaths of the electorate in the United States, European Union, and elsewhere. For many workers in the developed world, globalization seems more like some Wall Street con job than an economic panacea. However, when we consider the financial crash of 2008, and the aftermath of government bailouts of so many financial institutions, it’s not difficult to wonder if globalization and the rush to cash in on a growing world economy was symptomatic of something wrong with the theories supporting free trade.