As the recession takes hold, the fed continues to cut interest rates, and countries around the world cut growth forecasts, the Economist warns of another looming danger for the global economy: protectionism.
For the first time in more than a generation, two of the engines of global integration—trade and capital flows—are simultaneously shifting into reverse. The World Bank says that net private capital flows to emerging economies in 2009 are likely to be only half the record $1 trillion of 2007, while global trade volumes will shrink for the first time since 1982.
This twin shift will force wrenching adjustments. Countries that have relied on exports to drive growth, from China to Germany, will slump unless they can boost domestic demand quickly. The flight of private capital means emerging economies with current-account deficits face a drought of financing as well as export earnings. There is a risk that in their discomfort governments turn to an old, but false, friend: protectionism. Integration has less appeal when pain rather than prosperity is ricocheting across borders. It will be tempting to prop up domestic jobs and incomes by diverting demand from abroad with export subsidies, tariffs and cheaper currencies.