The recent G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany was like no other. Even before it began commentators predicted some world leaders would find less common ground than they had at previous summits. Yet, there was one reason why the latest summit was so unusual: Donald Trump.
“He was an uneasy, lonely, awkward figure at this gathering and you got the strong sense that some of the leaders are trying to find the best way to work around him … He has no desire and no capacity to lead the world,” was how veteran Australian political journalist Chris Uhlmann described the 45th president of the United States in a news roundup that has gone viral.
Typically, such events promote the shared values of an international community, putting security, peace and economic growth at the forefront of the agenda.
Trump at odds with long-standing G20 policy
However, since he has come to power, Trump has routinely rejected the concept of a global community and the benefits of globalization. He is instead extolling the virtues of protectionism, which would force the G20 to retreat on policies that reject this approach.
This clearly puts him at odds with the likes of China. Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru that his country will not turn its back on globalization. He said: “Sealing off and excluding others is not the correct choice … China will not shut the door to the outside world but open more … We’re going to ensure the fruits of development are shared.”
Trump’s anti-globalization/pro-protectionism stance also pits him against many major business leaders, among them Apple CEO Tim Cook. During a recent visit to China, in a rare public speech, Cook defended globalization, describing it as generally “great for the world” and cautioning against isolationism.
In a column for Asia Times last November, I wrote: “Globalization in the world of trade and commerce is here to stay and will, if anything, only gain momentum.”
Reasons why globalization is good for the world
I remain confident of this, despite Trump and his administration’s attempts to discredit the concept. Individuals, businesses, and countries are all increasingly globally minded and internationally focused — and there are key reasons for this.
First, globalization promotes economic growth, creates jobs, and increases competition between firms, thereby reducing costs for consumers.
Second, it increases competition between countries, which, again, typically means lower prices for ordinary people.
Third, it provides a global marketplace for both businesses and consumers.
Fourth, it can help poorer countries develop through greater levels of foreign investment. This, in turn, usually, makes countries more stable, secure and peaceful.
Fifth, labor can move more freely between countries.
And sixth, it promotes cultural and social acceptance and understanding between countries as they deal with each other.
There are, of course, disadvantages, but I agree with Tim Cook that globalization is generally beneficial for the world. Whatever your thoughts — whether you are for or against — it is not going to stop. Globalization has a vise-like grip on the world. With this in mind, we need to ensure that globalization is not hijacked or denigrated and that it works for as many people as possible.
This will take strong political leadership, something Trump showed at the recent G20 that he lacks. This will put America on the backfoot, while many Asian countries, such as China and India, are out front in embracing globalization.