Editorial - April/May 2018

Have we reached, or perhaps surpassed, peak globalisation? Credible evidence – from the World Bank, IMF and OECD – suggests we have. Flows of foreign investment and trade have fallen dramatically since their peak in 2007. The financial crisis was devastating, of course, but the trend suggests more – moves away from liberal internationalism towards protectionism and populism, and all that this entails.

The European Commission captured the mood well when it said last year that ‘citizens are anxious about not being able to control their future… due to the view that governments are no longer able to shape globalisation to benefit all’. But, increasing imposition of tariffs by the United States and China, and talk of trade wars suggests that assumptions underpinning decades of international cooperation are being called into question. Meanwhile, relations between Russia and the West are becoming as frosty as they were during the Cold War.

Leading commentators have noted striking similarities with trends a century ago when, between 1870 and the outbreak of the First World War, the world economy thrived – and flows of commodities, capital and labour reached record levels. Then, the global economy effectively disintegrated with the onset of the Great War, the Great Depression and, after that, the Second World War. The lead feature of this edition considers if globalisation has indeed had its day, whether the implications could be as dramatic and devastating in the 21st Century as they were in the 20th – and what all this means for multinational corporations, major financial institutions and the global law firms that advise them.

We also assess some of the other significant factors at play, with features on the international employment battleground created by disruptive technology and the gig economy and the extent to which corruption continues fundamentally to undermine rule of law in Eastern European members of the EU.