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Mandelson calls for world market rules reform

By Andrew Woodcock

Former Cabinet minister Lord Mandelson today called for reform of the rules governing globalisation to ensure that its benefits are more widely shared.

He warned of public anger over the perception that the financial gains from the economic changes of the past two decades have gone to a "small elite", while middle-class and blue-collar incomes have stagnated.

But he cautioned against the anti-globalisation message espoused by many on the left, insisting that the open international economy remains a "huge source of both opportunity and growth".

"Globalisation is dead. Long live globalisation," he declared.

The former business secretary was writing in a foreword to a thinktank report, launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos today, which warned of a "public backlash" against globalisation unless governments around the world take action to ensure their citizens benefit from it.

The report by the Institute for Public Policy Research called for coordinated international action to prevent a "race to the bottom" on corporation tax and to smooth out imbalances in world trade, as well as a UK industrial policy to improve the global competitiveness of British firms.

Lord Mandelson said: "Globalisation has been a huge source of both opportunity and growth, but we have not done a good enough job of sharing access to them. Stagnant middle class incomes and growing inequality between top earners and the rest tell their own story.

"The political feedback from that failure - in blue-collar anger at lost jobs, white collar anxiety at rising job insecurity and general anger at the way in which a small elite appear to have won the economic gains of the last two decades - is now posing a real problem for the politics of an open global economy."

And he added: "Preserving the benefits that come with open global markets for ideas, trade and investment means acting now to de-risk those markets and share the benefits they bring better in our own economies. Globalisation is dead. Long live globalisation."

The report's co-author, Will Straw, said: "Governments have to take responsibility for managing globalisation and reforming our international institutions to reflect the realities of a global economy turned on its head by the financial crisis and the 'rise of the rest'.

"Domestically, governments must do more to give their citizens the skills and opportunities to benefit from the global economy while developing social protection policies to mitigate the worst effects.

"Without this policy co-ordination and smart government, the gains from globalisation will increasingly go to those who already have the most and a public backlash may become unavoidable."

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