2016 will go down in the annals of history as the year that the world changed course. Hitherto, since the 1970s, the main theme of global economic development was globalisation – the idea that international borders were inimical to economic development; that tariff-free trade went hand in hand with the free flows of goods, capital and labour; and that it was natural for manufacturing companies to shift production to offshore locations where labour was cheaper.
With the advent of Brexit and an existential crisis emerging in the European Union, plus the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA on a ticket of renegotiating trade deals with NAFTA and China, there appears to be a backlash against globalisation. What’s more, many of the forces that have impelled globalisation – especially differential labour costs – are now going into reverse.
Don’t panic. The opposite of globalisation is not protectionism – but rather the resurgence of economic nationalism. Though, I call it economic rationalism. As I shall explain, this has been a much more preponderant force in global geopolitics than is commonly understood – and has never really gone away.
But what would a post-globalisation world look like? Who would be the winners and losers? And how can investors position themselves to profit from this trend?