Regardless of who wins the White House in November – and in spite of all the distractions of this bizarre campaign season – it's a sure bet that the election will be remembered as the year voters revolted against globalization in general and open-trade policies in particular. Nor has this reaction been confined to the United States. Britain's shocking decision in June to abandon the European Union was a product of the same forces of reaction to economic integration with anti-globalization overtones.
In my view, none of this should come as a surprise. What is surprising is that the rebellion took so long to break out.
For decades, it's been gospel in Washington (and in European capitals) that the gains from open trade outweighed the losses. This deeply held belief, reinforced by a mountain of research, powered the negotiators of multiple trade agreements – global ones, like the Tokyo (1979) and Uruguay (1994) rounds of the multilateral General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (which led to the formation of the World Trade Organization), regional deals like Nafta, and bilateral deals like the ones the United States has with Australia, Chile, Israel, Korea, Panama, Peru and Singapore that cumulatively stripped away most protection from domestic producers.