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Expand chart
Reproduced from GE Global Innovation Barometer 2018; Chart: Axios Visuals

Business executives across the globe—typically a chorus of free traders—favor barriers that would protect and foster technological advances in their own country, according to a new survey.

Quick take: The result, in a GE survey of 2,090 executives in 20 major economies, diverges from seven decades of broad business support for liberalized trade, which mainstream economists believe has powered rising prosperity and shrinking poverty.

By the numbers: In the survey, conducted for GE by Edelman Intelligence, 55% of the executives said protectionism would make their business sector more competitive. Of those who were pro-protectionism:

  • 73% said it would help workers.
  • 60% said it would "foster ideas domestically."
  • "I was shocked" by the result, Marco Annunziata, GE's former chief economist, told Axios. "We have known that protectionist winds were blowing but always thought that business was the last bastion of open markets and globalization. It's a bit of a reality check."

Sue Siegel, GE's chief innovation officer, called the sentiment "a short-term, opportunistic approach" to domestic economic policy. "Long-term health relies on open free trade," she said.

A primary division between the pro- and anti-protectionist executives was how they felt about government's role in innovation.

  • Pro-protectionists said government and other national bodies were the main drivers and funders of innovation.
  • Anti-protectionists said business is innovation's main driver, and that government fails to effectively regulate innovation.

Go deeper

Corporate America finds downside to politics

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Corporate America is finding it can get messy when it steps into politics.

Why it matters: Urged on by shareholders, employees and its own company creeds, Big Business is taking increasing stands on controversial political issues during recent months — and now it's beginning to see the fallout.

Church groups say they can help the government more at border

A mural inside of Casa del Refugiado in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Stef Kight/Axios

Despite the separation between church and state, the federal government depends upon religious shelters to help it cope with migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Why it matters: The network supports the U.S. in times of crisis, but now some shelter leaders are complaining about expelling families to Mexico when they have capacity — and feel a higher calling — to accommodate them.

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