A more pragmatic approach to trade

Cover of Backlash: Saving globalisation from itself, by Joe Zammit-Lucia and David BoyleBacklash: Saving globalisation from itself
Joe Zammit-Lucia and David Boyle
Radix, £11.99
(Buy at Amazon)

Globalisation has become something of a dirty word, due to evidence that it has resulted in stagnating incomes and increased inequality in developed countries. The authors of this monograph from Radix, a think tank, concede that supporters of an open global economy have exaggerated the benefits, and underplayed the costs.

They argue that the current system of wide-ranging trade agreements mostly focused on cutting tariffs – which aren’t even the primary barrier to trade any more – needs to be replaced with a more pragmatic approach, based around sector-by-sector agreements and minimum levels of labour and environmental standards. This would avoid trade deals being derailed by small disputes and also ensure that gains didn’t come at the expense of the middle class.

As well as looking at globalisation in general, the final third of the book considers how Brexit will affect Britain’s trade policy. While Britain will gain the flexibility to negotiate trade deals that reflect British preferences, it will also put the UK outside of one of the largest trading blocs in the world. As a result, they strongly suggest that the UK should stay within the European Economic Area, at least for the first five years.

Even if you don’t agree with all their suggestions, the authors make intelligent points, and deftly occupy the middle ground in a polarised debate.