With the furore over the hostile takeover of Cadbury by American giant, Kraft, the attacks by the Obama administration on British Petroleum, and worry over the number of companies being sold to buyers from the Middle East, China, Russia and India, the ownership of business has become increasingly politicised. Against a backdrop of rising unemployment and deep seated economic unease at home, any perceived failure by a government to stand up for the ‘national interest’ against ruthless foreign invaders risks domestic uproar.
Unfortunately, however, I fear these awkward collisions between the worlds of business and politics are merely the outward manifestations of an underlying trend towards protectionism that is beginning to infect the global economy. But why the urge to batten down the hatches and what does it augur for the future?
I would contend that growing protectionism is in reality only a symptom of a far deeper, more fundamental anxiety – that of the colossal trade imbalances that the financial crisis has so painfully exposed (and which were in truth one of its main causes). How these might be overcome and what the world will look like once they have been unravelled may eventually tell the story of the global economy in this century.