Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 07:53 | SYDNEY
Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 07:53 | SYDNEY

More second thoughts on globalisation


Mark Thirlwell

17 July 2008 13:37

Dani Rodrik has written a column on the ‘death of the globalisation consensus’, in which he describes how many of the traditional defenders of globalisation are now feeling ‘doubts, questions and scepticism’ and warns that globalisation ‘rests on shaky pillars’. 

In terms of the issues at the heart of the current policy debate on globalisation, I think Rodrik gets it exactly right in the second last paragraph:

Today, the question is no longer: "Are you for or against globalisation?" The question is: "What should the rules of globalisation be?"

This challenge is visible across a whole range of issues, including investment (how should we regulate Sovereign Wealth Funds?), the environment (how do we pull together a global deal on climate change?) and trade (how do we get the Doha round over the line?). 

With regard to the last of these, the changing nature of the debate over the future of globalisation is also visible in the WTO’s World Trade Report 2008: Trade in a globalizing world, launched earlier this week. As might be expected from a WTO publication, the report does a pretty good job of setting out the way in which ‘(t)rade and globalisation more generally have brought enormous benefits to many countries and citizens’. But it also discusses the need for policymakers to manage the forces driving the mounting opposition to further international integration.  Thus the opening paragraph in the report’s executive summary concludes:

Trade scepticism is on the rise in certain quarters, and the purpose of this year’s core topic . . . is to remind ourselves of what we know about the gains from international trade and the challenges arising from higher levels of integration.

And then a bit later on in the report comes:

It is time to remind ourselves what trade can contribute, which seems to have been forgotten in some quarters, but also to be candid about who has benefited and by how much . . . The Report will argue that the benefits from trade have not been evenly distributed . . . Policy-makers must address these issues if they want to allay public fears about trade and to allow nations to benefit from the considerable gains that can result from trade.

Back in May, I posted on the proposition that the kind of arguments set out in my 2007 Lowy Institute Paper, Second thoughts on globalisation, were in danger of becoming the new consensus.  I think they pretty much are the consensus now.