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The age of globalization

  • Published at 11:59 pm June 10th, 2019
Photo: BIGSTOCK
Photo: BIGSTOCK

It has only just begun

The world is facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the culmination of World War II in 1945. Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine. 

There are still many problems on our planet. Within recent years, globalization has become in most cases like the culprit of everything and the scapegoat for all our sins. 

Unemployment, relocation, poverty, and inequality -- for many people, these are the consequences of a process of global integration, which more and more think has gone too far.

The numbers are quite clear. Every time a survey is done, most people think that the world is getting worse, and this is happening because of globalization. 

In 2016, a study published by the Economist found that less than half of Americans, Brits, and the French believed that this whole process was a good thing. And all this growing unpopularity of globalization has been exploited practically in all corners of the world by all kinds of politicians. Politicians who oppose immigration, free trade, and ultimately, everything that is different.

However, on this occasion, it is not a matter of political colour. In both right-wing parties and left-wing parties, we find this type of discourse. Perhaps a good example was the elections in the US, where we saw how both Donald Trump and the Democratic primary candidate, Bernie Sanders, defended in one way or another this sort of speech, which we can summarize in one sentence: “Globalization is destroying our society.”

For the last seven decades, since World War II, globalization has accelerated constantly and with it the movement of people, goods, and capital throughout the world. For all these years, many political barriers to trade have been eliminated. 

For a company to have factories or sell products in a country thousands of kilometres away has become very normal. Suddenly, wherever you live, you can eat sushi, pizza, and nachos. There were those who even predicted that national borders would soon be history.

World trade has been around for a number of years, but now international data traffic has exploded. In the US alone, 80 terabytes of data enter and leave the country every minute, a gigantic number that is eight times the content of the Library of Congress -- one of the largest libraries in the world.

Experts believe that international data flow is more important to the economy than the trade of goods. For example, Facebook has just exceeded the 2 billion active users and YouTube breaks its own historical records every year. They may seem too little, but the truth is that the business they generate is huge.

Take another example: 8 out of 10 readers of the Financial Times -- one of the most important economic newspapers in the world -- are from other countries than the UK. We also have Amazon or Alibaba, which are full of entrepreneurs from all backgrounds all working to sell their products. 

In addition, today we can hire designers or buy video games through online platforms. And this has only just begun. 

According to Oxford Economics and HSBC, international trade in services will triple within the next 15 years. The truth is that for each day that passes by, we live in a much more connected world. Globalization is not going to go away; it’s only going to grow.

Moscow took the lead in the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union in 2015, which aimed to improve the economic status of the countries that make up the so-called “Russian area of influence.” Now Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan are all part of this alliance.

The EU itself has also launched its most ambitious free trade program yet. Given all the anti-globalization talk, you might be surprised, but the EU has just signed a trade agreement with Canada, and it’s about to do the same with Singapore and Vietnam. It has also made progress in negotiations with Mercosur as well as beginning to negotiate with Australia and New Zealand.

Even China wants to strengthen its commercial commitment. In fact, it is demanding in the WTO that it be recognized as a market economy. And now, that time has come. We are talking about a technicality that allows the rest of the WTO countries such as the US or EU members to impose protectionist measures in their relations with China.

If China achieves its purpose and is recognized as a full market economy and that is something that will happen eventually, we will see how its commercial relations with the rest of the world are going to have another important upturn. 

It is true that people listen to protectionist politicians and critics of globalization, but events may take other paths. In any case, we think this is a good thing. Thanks to globalization and the integration of people, in the last 25 years we have lived through the period in which poverty has been reduced the most in the entirety of human history. 

More than a billion people have escaped extreme need, the middle classes have grown as never before, the average life expectancy has gone up and up, and even global inequality has been reduced.

Let’s hope that the next 25 years are going to be even better; and that we recognize that there are political, cultural, and social differences that we shouldn’t see as a threat. 

Arafat-Al-Yeasin is a student of the University of Dhaka.