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Free Trade‐Populism and Nativist‐Protectionism: Trade Policy and the Sweden Democrats

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Abstract:  The past three decades have seen the entry and increased influence of radical right parties into the European party landscape. These parties harness disaffection with the status quo by appealing to nativist or authoritarian tendencies in the electorate. Their policies often center around the protection of the “common man” from foreign or elite forces (particularly, cultural and economic globalization) and their emergence has been linked to decreasing support for globalization—the so-called “globalization backlash.” Several authors note that although radical right parties advocate economic protectionism to attract voters, who are disaffected by globalization, they say little about how this is manifested in advocacy of concrete policy measures. This speaks to the need for more systematic study of the trade policies of radical right parties. This article studies the Swedish radical right party, the Sweden Democrats (ostensibly free traders), to advance an argument based on the core ideology of radical right parties, nativism, and populism. In doing so, the article contributes to the literature that stresses cultural rather than economic foundations for opposition to globalization. Moreover, this article widens the definition of protectionism from that germane to the literature on radical right parties to include non-tariff barriers to trade (in addition to tariffs and quotas), providing a more up-to-date and multifaceted account of the range of trade policy instruments that radical right parties may advocate. I find that populism inspires advocacy of liberal trade policies, while nativism inspires protectionist trade policies. Protectionism almost exclusively consists of non-tariff barriers.

Keywords:  nativism; non‐tariff trade barriers; populism; radical right parties; trade policy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v11i4.7066


© Alexander Dannerhäll. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.