Globalization is over – or is it?

Donald Trump could soon cancel Chinese steel import and declare China’s growing global economic role as a national security threat. This and other protectionist measures in other countries could totally cripple the slowing globalization, which has been so fundamental for developments of the past decades.
Simon Evenett, British professor at University of St. Gallen, advisor to the Swiss government, and researcher of the development of world trade and globalization says that in order to stop dangerous processes, it is of utter importance that governments end campaigns of fear generating. Our interviewee also demands that politics shall focus on uncovering news and analyses that are based on half-truths and lies. The media and politics shall make clear for everyone that automatization will be advantageous for humanity. Only by continuing globalization can science and technology advance to make hundreds of millions fear from migration, ageing and illness unfounded – says Simon Everett.

Péter Zentai: Globalization is undeniably descending, or would it be too early to say that?
Simon Evenett:
This can be proved on two levels. First, international public opinion is negative towards globalization. Never before have the people of America and Europe been more against the global merging of economy, culture or any other essential field. The other problem is that current governments are unsuitable for negotiation any international or global agreements. They were unable to conclude agreements of transatlantic, and Pacific Ocean countries.
Western governments have been stealthily or openly issuing numerous protectionist measures, protecting their own economy on others’ expense. This process inevitably leads to conflicts. However, this is only the result and the reaction. Governments and decision-makers reflect to the negative public opinion.

What shows that western cultures have become anti-globalization?
A series of surveys and studies involved them. However, the situation is quite different in the developing world: public opinion in the emerging Asian, South American, and African countries supports global merging, while in Europe and North America, negative attitudes are increasing.

As I see, it is not true for the youth and young adults. No other generation before has been more globalized then them…
This is indeed a crucial observation, which is supported by public opinion surveys worldwide. This existing and potential base is not against globalization but against anti-globalization. The majority of youth did not want Brexit or Trump, and we could easily find other current issues that they judge differently than their parents’ generation. However, in politics, their parents’ opinion has crucial role.

What damage could the President of the United States cause to globalization?
His rhetoric might have become somewhat milder during his election campaign or in comparison to his speeches after his inauguration, yet he could still make unpredictable decisions to decrease world trade, which could lead to serious conflicts. In the coming months he is likely to sign a regulation, which seemingly bears technological significance only, so to say to protect the American industry; however, this could initiate a chain reaction: foreign countries that ended up in disadvantageous positions could counter these measures by creating their own regulations. Actions will lead to counteractions; retaliation will lead to more retaliation. The globalization crisis could become extremely serious.

Could you give an example?
It is not impossible that Trump will restrict Chinese steel import, saying it poses national security risks. He could also state that China taking more significant roles in international and global economy and commerce threatens the security of the United States. China will retaliate some way. The development of the relationship between these two world economic powers is extremely worrying. The American-Chinese conflict could easily become radically worse, even though, the situation does not seem so severe.

Could you explain President Trump’s anti-German attitude? On what basis does he attack the German economy?
I cannot say anything about it; I find it rather inexplicable.

Could you mention existing or potential developments that show the continuation of globalization; anything that would make us optimistic?
If ‘mature’ and knowledgeable experts got a more significant role in Trump’s circle to prevent the president from making more decisions that would lead to further conflicts. Or if Donald Trump was not the president of the United States anymore…

What should be changed in the Western world to make people stop turning inside instead of opening up, as they have done before?
The only way to ‘salvation’ would be if governments were not afraid to enlighten the people from unfounded and dangerously fast spreading fear and fixations. They could focus on dispelling misconceptions and broadening the collective knowledge of the public. Instead of fearmongering, they could start driving away the fear of globalization: telling the people clearly and precisely the truth that while on one hand, world trade and automatization take away certain jobs, on the other hand, they open up new perspectives and also creates new jobs. They shall also know that there is nothing to fear from aging societies and illnesses because the developments of globalization, science, and technology will provide solutions for any challenge we might face in the future.

Original date of Hungarian publication: June 13, 2017