A climber wears safety equipment and holds the safety rope by hand.

People want a Safety Net for Globalization and Trade

Since Donald Trump became US President, the commitment to free trade is no longer self-evident. In many countries it made way for a protectionist reflex, not only in the US. But are the citizens buying this new narrative? Our international survey analyses what people actually think about globalization, trade and protectionism.

Many people in the countries of the survey feel inadequately protected by their respective governments against negative effects of trade and globalization, both in developed and emerging economies. While most people agree that there are many positives in terms of growth and living standards, they also perceive negative side-effects on social inequalities, job security and wages.

This is shown by our international survey conducted by YouGov. More than 14,000 people in a dozen emerging and developed economies were surveyed on their attitudes towards trade and globalization.

"People want globalization with a safety belt. Politics and the economy should not react to this demand by protectionist measures. Well managed, globalization can bring progress for all."

Aart De Geus, chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung

A strong demand for more protection from their government

The desire for more protection can be found in all developed and in many emerging economies of the survey. 42 percent of US respondents feel that the government is not doing enough to protect them against negative side-effects of globalization, while only 30 percent feel sufficiently protected. These shares are not unusual for developed countries. In emerging economies 50 percent of respondents are satisfied with the protection afforded by their government, while with 40 percent a large minority would want better protection.

In developed as well as emerging economies, most people feel that globalization increases social inequalities. In developed economies, a majority does not believe that globalization contributes to wage increases. People are also skeptical about foreign takeovers of domestic companies, in the US, only 18 percent believe that foreign takeovers of domestic companies are beneficial, while 55 percent are convinced of the opposite. In addition, 61 percent call for stronger protection against international competitors – a level close to the average of developed economies.

A lot of people - especially from emerging countries - call for stronger protection against international competitors.

Still, there is a majority in all countries that believes trade is good. Also Americans remain favorable towards international trade. 65 percent believe trade has positive effects, slightly below the survey average for developed economies. Only 14 percent believe it has negative effects. The picture in Canada, the UK and almost all emerging economies is even more positive. For the US, this is a significant drop in positive opinions compared to two years ago, when a similar survey found 82 percent in favor of trade. When asked whether trade is good for companies, general living standards and job creation, a positive picture emerges. But 39 percent believe that trade is bad for job security, again an opinion mirrored in many developed economies, while in emerging economies people on average think that globalization also increases job security.

What do the people think about the North American Free Trade Agreement?

One of the most interesting elements of the study are the opinions on whether the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should be continued: In the US, public opinion on whether NAFTA should be scrapped is divided: 36 percent of US citizens believe that would be beneficial, 30 percent believe it is not and 34 percent do not have a firm opinion. In the other NAFTA countries, Canada and Mexico, 63 and 58 percent respectively believe that a termination would not be beneficial.