Survey: UK citizens in favour of international trade

Written by Martin Banks on 23 April 2018 in News

The British are particularly favourable towards growing international trade, according to a new survey.

Photo credit: Press Association

A new survey by German think tank Bertelsmann Stiftung found that 76 percent of respondents in the UK believe international trade has positive effects, the second biggest support for international trade found in any developed economy (Canada comes first).

The findings come as the UK increasingly seeks to forge new trade relationships with other non-EU countries as a result of Brexit.

Although it is generally agreed that the UK will try to agree new trade deals in other parts of the world there is, however, currently some confusion as to whether the UK will seek to remain in the EU’s Customs Union after it exits the EU at the end of March 2019.

On Monday, it was reported that UK Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated her support for a “hybrid” customs plan in which the UK would collect customs duties on the EU’s behalf for goods destined for the bloc as a way of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland while maintaining the ability to set tariffs.

Members of May’s Brexit war cabinet will meet on Wednesday to discuss trade before confirming the UK’s stance ahead of the EU summit in Brussels on 29 June.

More than 14,000 people in 12 emerging and developed economies, including the UK, were surveyed on their attitudes towards trade and globalisation.

The desire for more protection can be found in all developed and in many emerging economies, it found.

In Britain 43 per cent of respondents feel that the government is not doing enough to protect them against negative side-effects of globalisation, while only 21 per cent feel sufficiently protected.

Some 41 per cent of British respondents feel that globalisation increases social inequalities (versus 25 per cent) and 39 per cent do not believe that globalisation contributes to wage increases.

Only 16 per cent believe that foreign takeovers of domestic companies are beneficial, while 60 per cent are convinced of the opposite. In addition, 59 per cent call for stronger protection against international competitors;

However, the survey found that the British are particularly favourable towards growing international trade with only five percent believing it has negative effects. When asked whether respondents believe that trade is good for companies, general living standards and job creation, a similar picture emerges.

The UK’s economic situation is seen as positive by 49 per cent of the population and negative by 41 per cent. This stark division is underlined when it comes to the effect of Brexit on the country’s economic future: 40 per cent believe it will be negative, while 42 per cent view it as positive.

Regardless of Brexit, future expectations tend towards the negative: 42 per cent believe that the economy will fare worse than today versus 36 per cent with a positive viewpoint.

The survey said that many people around the world feel “inadequately protected by their respective governments against negative effects of trade and globalisation, including in Britain and Germany.”

While most people agree that there are many positives in terms of growth and living standards, they also perceive negative side-effects on inequality and pay.

Aart de Geus, CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, commenting on the findings, said, “People want globalisation with a safety belt. Politics and the economy should not react to this demand by protectionist measures. Well managed, globalisation can bring progress for all.”

The study was conducted in early February 2018 in Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Russia, the USA and the UK. A total of 14,381 people participated online.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine


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