||A dispute is currently raging in India about whether the World Trade Organisation's agreements on agriculture devalue Indian interests. Secretary of Commerce Kamal Nath says he has obtained a declaration of intent from the industrialised nations to cut agricultural subsidies. This reduction of subsidies would allow Indian farmers to
perform better on the world markets in the future. Nath's critics, however, believe that the rich countries have once again "pulled a fast one" on the poor countries. After all, the price to pay for this reduction of subsidies would be a further opening of the world markets for manufactured goods and services, mostly originating from Europe and North America.
This dispute is a clear illustration of the controversial debate surrounding globalisation, i.e. the increasing global integration in an economic, social, political and cultural sense. Globalisation is certainly an important growth driver - cross-border trade forms links between national economies and generates more wealth. Globalisation as a principle per se is good and should not be prevented.
However, there are parts of society, and certain countries, that benefit less from globalisation than others. A process aiming towards worldwide and fair globalisation is not in evidence everywhere. New borders are being created - within industrialised nations as well as between industrialised and developing countries. This results in growing inequity and a loss of cultural identity. Globalisation
cannot be regarded as truly global and successful while a large proportion of the world's population remain unable to reap the benefits.
Paradoxically, attempts to increase globalisation in developing countries have so far proved directly disadvantageous for less-qualified sections of the population in the industrialised nations. The outsourcing of production processes - currently to Eastern Europe and East Asia in particular - is reducing the levels of employment in industrialised countries. This is the paradox of globalisation.
Globalisation should not, and cannot, be stopped. But how can social inequality be redressed? Can exclusiveness - i.e. a situation where the benefits are enjoyed only by a few - be avoided? How can we break the `globalisation paradox'? There are three conceivable solutions for `globalising globalisation':
Dialogue: Opponents and supporters of globalisation usually deal with each other in a rather confrontational manner. They rarely look for common ground. As Jürgen Habermas suggests, dialogue could be a way of approaching what is different, strange and initially misunderstood in a more radical way than before. Dialogue could lead to a consensually held vision of a better world.
Standards: Niccolo Machiavelli's ideas about establishing and maintaining power at any price have found their way into politics and commerce at all levels. However, it is particularly true in a networked economy that `the end does not justify the means'. The interaction between people, institutions and nations should be governed by standards. Multinational institutions such as the World Trade
Organisation should be more heavily respected and promoted than is currently the case.
Free trade: The reduction of subsidies in the industrialised countries and selective outsourcing of production can lead to increased employment and productivity in the developing countries. The loss of employment in the industrialised nations must be counterbalanced by improved training and jobs in new industries. Free trade should generate noticeable and sustainable improvements for all parties
involved; otherwise, globalisation will only ever work to the advantage of a few.
These three methods of resolution should be simultaneously pursued by governments, industry and society in both industrialised and developing countries. This is the only way to globalise globalisation!
Frank-Jürgen Richter is President of Horasis, the Global Visions Community and a previous Director of the World Economic Forum. He recently published `Global Future. The Next Challenge for Asian Business'. He will be in Malaysia on the 27th & 28th June to head the inaugural Managing Global Challenges Series. For more information please visit www.urban-forum.com or www.mim.org.my email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com