Increased commitment to international economic cooperation from world powers is necessary to protect the advantages of globalism, according to a March 13 panel of economic experts that included the former president of the World Bank.

Leaders need to fight to preserve free international trade in light of increasing protectionism, especially in the United States and Europe, according to Gita Gopinath, economic counsellor and director of research development at the International Monetary Fund.

“When you think of the benefits to the global economy of international trade, they’ve been robust, when you think of the number of people that have been raised from poverty because of this kind of integration,” Gopinath said. “Trade is a good thing and it is a thing worth preserving.”

Titled “The Future of the Global Economy,” the panel addressed fears of economic protectionism, American disengagement from global affairs and a continuing trade war between the United States and China.

SCHOOL OF FOREIGN SERVICE-GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY/FACEBOOK | A panel of economic experts, including the former President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick, right, encouraged international cooperation at an event March 13. 

Caroline Atkinson, an expert in international economics and former head of global policy at Google, moderated the panel, which included Gopinath; Robert Zoellick, former president of the World Bank; and Adam Tooze, Columbia University professor and author of the book “Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World.

Despite globalization’s immense benefits, policymakers still need to create solutions to minimize its unavoidable consequences, Gopinath said.

“Going forward, there absolutely needs to be a better response to how globalization affects different communities,” Gopinath said. “But we have to recognize the fact that even if we have the best possible multilateral negotiators out there, we are never going to solve the problem that there are going to be winners and losers.”

Tooze also pushed for renewed global economic integration and criticized Europe for shying away from increased globalization.

“When it comes to the question of Europe, obviously the answer has got to be yes. Yes Europe can do more, Europe should do more,” Tooze said. “It is extraordinary that it has retreated.”

In recent years, anti-globalist movements have gained influence in European politics, challenging systems of continental economic integration in the face of increasing international trade. The United Kingdom Independence Party successfully campaigned for the U.K. to exit the European Union in 2016, and far-right parties like The National Rally in France have received large gains in the share of votes in parliamentary and presidential elections.

Zoellick echoed calls for rule-based international cooperation and encouraged continued U.S. engagement and normalized relations with China.

“My point is not that we should ignore their behaviors, but the idea that we can’t work with the Chinese to set up rules and improve behavior, I think, is mistaken,” Zoellick said.

President Donald Trump has imposed $250 billion of tariffs on Chinese imports in retaliation for perceived unfair trading practices, and China has responded by imposing tariffs on $110 billion of U.S. goods, according to CNBC. Currently, U.S. negotiators are meeting with Chinese officials to negotiate an end to the trade war.

The United States cannot avoid engagement in the economies of other countries like China, according to Zoellick.

“The United States and other key players cannot avoid making these choices,” Zoellick said. “Inaction is a form of action, and there are various forms of destructive action that we may also see taking place today.”

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