Globalisation is not the problem – the problem is what’s driving it.
The world saw a brief period of sanity in the 1940s, following two world wars and the Great Depression. The United Nations was set up to, among other things, oversee international commerce. It in turn established the International Trade Organisation, which drew up a charter. Just months before the charter was to be ratified, 23 of the richest countries decided this was meddling in ‘free trade’ and pulled out. They formed their own club – General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) to promote unrestrained trade. This resulted in the rise of transnational corporations, which by the early 1980s controlled two-thirds of all international trade.
Thus corporate globalisation came into being. The corporations needed cheap labour, cheap materials, unhindered investment, the free movement of money and political stability, including tame governments to provide infrastructure and remove any protectionist policies.
However, the ‘Asian Tigers’ (Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) had established a toehold in world trade and wanted a piece of the action. The major players did what they had done before to the ITO – they pulled the plug on GATT. After the Uraguay Round of GATT talks in 1994, a group representing the richest businesses in the richest countries of the world set up the the World Trade Organisation. Countries wishing to join are required to alter any of their own laws which the WTO feels interferes with its goals. The WTO’s two ugly sisters – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – loan money to developing countries in return for ‘structural adjustment’ including privatisation of public assets.
In Seattle in 1999 at a routine WTO ministerial meeting, the ‘Quad Four’ – US, European Union, Japan and Canada – took a selection of key members aside with the intention of further inflating the WTO’s mandate and aims. However, a large number of member countries within the WTO objected, while outside, thousands of ‘unruly’ protesters were challenging the legitimacy of the WTO. How dare they!
Voila! Enter the media, confuse the issue, make ‘globalisation’ the source of the problem. Globalisation is here to stay, and should be a force for mankind’s good. It has to be. Humans have to work together all over the world to halt environmental disaster, whether it be global warming, pollution, loss of biodiversity, land degradation or any of the problems we face. We as individuals work locally towards slowing down one or some of these problems, but in the end they are global issues.
Globalisation is not the problem. The WTO and its stooges are the problem.