As government and economists around the world struggle with the populist backlash against free trade and globalisation, the Productivity Commission has warned that the battle against protectionism will be lost unless the benefits of trade are shared more widely and governments stop negotiating deals in secret.

In a recent paper, the commission has tried to get to grips both with the potential damage to Australia if protectionism surges around the world, and what Australia could do to combat it. But it's the commission's efforts to work out how to deal with the growing, bitter resistance to globalisation that is most interesting.