Neo-protectionism in the Age of Brexit and Trump: What Does Australia Do with Its Powerful Friends?

  • Michael Lester
  • Marie dela RamaEmail author
Part of the International Perspectives on Social Policy, Administration, and Practice book series (IPSPAP)


This chapter briefly reviews some Australian economic history and considers how its policies can meet the contemporary challenges of globalisation. As a well-endowed, rich, small country, Australia, from its colonial origins, has survived, thrived and benefited from ‘globalisation’, largely sheltered under its umbrella of strategic alliances with its ‘great and powerful friends’, namely, Britain and then the USA. The country’s geographical isolation, the ‘great southern land’, made its embrace of globalisation a necessity. Australia has successfully confronted significant challenges in the progressive restructuring and growth of its economy. However, recently emerging trends of global nationalism and protectionism, manifested in Brexit and Trump, raise difficult questions and choices for Australia. The country’s future now turns on how it might successfully transcend the current tide of anti-globalisation initiated by its ‘powerful friends’ while further engaging with its region and embracing the opportunities presented by the rise of China.

So what has gone so wrong? Why and when did the world turn from its commitment to globalisation and free trade on a multilateral basis? And how do we find ourselves embarking upon what looks like a new era of global protectionism and isolationism, led ironically by our two ‘great and powerful friends’—Britain with its Brexit vote and America with the election of President Trump? Will the world economy—against all past lessons—fall back into the era of ‘tit-for-tat’ protectionism, global depression and world wars consequent on the emerging neo-protectionism, isolationism and xenophobia? Is Australia in danger of ending its dream run of growth and prosperity based on an outward-facing economic, trade and foreign policy? Will Australia become inward looking and protectionist once again? Who will be the country’s next ‘big and powerful friend’ as the global power order once again historically shifts, this time from the Anglo American sphere with its commitment to liberal democracy to the Asia-Pacific?


Globalisation Neo-protectionism Brexit Trump Australia Public policy Trade 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Long View PartnersSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.UTS Business SchoolSydneyAustralia

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