The London Conference

Plenary Session Four: The Liberal Economic Order: Will the Centre Hold?

Tuesday 24 October, 1000 – 1115


Session Report

The panel discussed the current state of the liberal economic order and how it can respond to current populist challenges.

A key factor highlighted was the extent to which global liberalization is unfinished – there are still many restrictions on free trade and many economies with heavily subsidized state-owned enterprises.

There was also an emphasis on how different elements of the global system underpin each other – with economic institutions relying on security institutions and vice versa.

There was debate over whether the global economic order is under an existential threat or is simply going through a rough period – often boiling down to perspectives on whether the Trump administration in the US represents an enduring phenomenon or an aberration.

Though the path forward is unclear, there was agreement that the focus on what ails countries needs to be adjusted – from unemployment to income stagnation, for instance, or the pressure of technology on wages.

A further question was one of leadership – whether political leaders, especially in the West, are fit to tackle these problems, and whether this is the result of systemic problems in democracies.


Key Quotes

‘The question used to be: what should US leadership do? What happens to diminishing US power? But nobody thought to ask: what happens when the US just quits its leadership role?’
Laura Daniels

‘Overall, if there is a government you can trust, that can explain things properly and you can believe it – they can explain that being more open is the answer.’
Vicky Pryce

‘Is the issue here one of expectation? Have we oversold the expectation that things get better for everyone year after year? When that stops, it’s quite striking for people.’
James Manyika

‘If you don’t have these diplomatic forums that the UN provides, if you don’t have the security structure that NATO provides, if you don’t have economic institutions like the WTO – these things reinforce each other. If you lose one, the others suffer too.’
Laura Daniels 

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