Brexit, Trump and the future of the liberal order

Roger Cohen, Kevin Rudd and Manuel Muñiz

On 21 February 2017, the Rafael del Pino Foundation organised the dialogue "Brexit, Trump and the future of the liberal order" with the participation of Roger Cohen, Kevin Rudd and Manuel Muñiz.

Roger Cohen joined The New York Times in 1990. He was a foreign correspondent for more than a decade before becoming international editor on 11 September 2001 and international editor six months later. Since 2004, he has written a column for The International New York Times, formerly known as The International Herald Tribune. In 2009 he was named a columnist for The New York Times. Cohen has written "Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo", an account of the wars of Yugoslavia's destruction, and "Soldiers and Slaves: American POWs Trapped by the Nazis' Final Gamble". He has also co-written a biography of Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, "In the Eye of the Storm." Her family memoir, "The Girl From Human Street: Ghosts of Memory in a Jewish Family," was published in January 2015.

Kevin Rudd was Australia's 26th Prime Minister from 2007-2010 and subsequently Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2010 to 2012. As Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd led Australia's response during the global financial crisis with Australia being the only advanced economy not to go into recession, largely thanks to the Australian government's policy response which the OECD/IMF judged to be one of the most effective in the world. Kevin Rudd is internationally recognised as one of the founders of the G20, the world's premier global economic decision-making institution, and as one of the key drivers behind the decision to expand the East Asia summit to include the United States. Today, Rudd remains engaged in major international challenges such as global economic governance, the rise of China and sustainable development. He co-authored the 2012 report for the UN Secretary General on Global Sustainability "Resilient People, Resilient Planet".

Manuel Muñiz is the Director of the Transatlantic Relations Program at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. He is also an associate member of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies and an elected member of the Alumni Board of Directors of the Kennedy School of Government, both at Harvard University. Dr. Muñiz's academic work focuses on the fields of innovation, disruption, geopolitics, and regional and global governance. He has studied cooperation and integration processes in Europe and the North Atlantic with the aim of understanding how states deal with interdependence and complexity. As Rafael del Pino Professor of Global Transformation and Director of the Rafael del Pino Foundation's Global Leadership Programme, Dr. Muñiz's work aims to promote Spanish talent in the field of governance and foreign policy. His work for the Foundation includes directing courses at Harvard and Oxford Universities, organising lectures and conferences in Spain, as well as awarding scholarships and fellowships for applied studies and research. He holds a Law Degree from the Complutense University of Madrid, a Masters in Finance from the Instituto de Estudios Bursátiles, a Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government and a PhD in International Relations from Oxford University. He is also a David Rockefeller Fellow of the Trilateral Commission and a Millennium Fellow of the Atlantic Council. In 2016 he was named by Esglobal as one of the 25 intellectuals who are redefining Ibero-American thought. During the spring semester of 2017, Dr. Muñiz will teach a course entitled Order and Chaos: Diplomacy and Force in a Changing World at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University focusing on the rise of populism and its geopolitical consequences".


On 21 February 2017, the Rafael del Pino Foundation organised a meeting entitled "Brexit, Trump and the future of the liberal order", with the participation of Kevin Budd, former Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister of Australia, and Roger Cohen, columnist for the New York Times. The first to speak was Kevin Budd, who warned of the need to recognise the great challenges, profound and systemic, that Western countries are facing today and which have called liberal values into question. The technological revolution, the fragmentation of societies, and the trivialisation of public opinion are phenomena that are occurring simultaneously. To deal with them, it is important to take a broad, long-term view of history. The spread of fake news through social media, for example, takes advantage of freedom and liberal values. This limits freedom of the press, while the pursuit of truth is a tradition in the West. The technological challenge is perfectly exemplified by Moore's law, according to which the processing power of a microchip doubles every two years, thus growing exponentially. This has consequences. For example, the development of artificial intelligence has an impact on employment and can make human beings redundant. The challenge, therefore, is how to manage technological change so that it benefits the majority. The third challenge is the destruction of the economic and social contract. Since the financial crisis, and partly because of it, inequality, both of income and of opportunity, is increasing, and this is beginning to fracture that contract in a profound way. Growing inequality leads to the fourth challenge: policy failure. The inability to adequately manage the impact of globalisation is leading to the emergence of populism. All this represents a serious threat to liberal values. And the question is how we are going to meet these challenges. For his part, Roger Cohen began his speech by describing Brexit as a crazy decision and explaining that there are many people who want disruptive change, which explains Trump's victory. Cohen recalled that in 1989, with the fall of communism, it seemed that the end of history had arrived with the triumph of the liberal consensus. However, this is not the case. We now have to face what the Oxford dictionary calls the post-truth and the view that the only truth is that which emanates from the leader, all of which poses a danger to liberal values. What is happening in the United States is worrying. For example, the dual positions on NATO of Trump and Pence are dangerous because they affect global security and stability. On the other hand, America is an idea; an idea of freedom, democracy and openness. It is now being stripped away because of Trump and his threatening "America First". Trump also attacks the EU and expects more countries to leave the European project, which is something completely new. In the past, the US saw the EU as a key player for stability on the continent. But now things are changing because Trump does not know European history. "America First" also means attacking NATO and withdrawing from international trade agreements, such as TTIP, when multilateralism has been a key pillar of stability. It is also against the press and against the truth. Banon said the press had to shut up, when the press is fundamental to freedom. Trump behaves more like a leader of a movement than the president of the United States. In this sense, his attacks on Congress are worrying. In these cases, the institutions of the liberal order are systematically undermined. Something is going on in our societies and we must recognise it because it feeds populism.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for the comments, opinions or statements made by the people who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their sole responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio González, are the result of the debates held at the meeting held for this purpose at the Foundation and are the responsibility of the authors.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for any comments, opinions or statements made by third parties. In this respect, the FRP is not obliged to monitor the views expressed by such third parties who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their own responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio J. González, are the result of the discussions that took place during the conference organised for this purpose at the Foundation and are the sole responsibility of its authors.