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Where next globalization?

February 22, 2020

The coronavirus crisis is illustrating the stark interdependencies of the modern world. Businesses everywhere are having to confront delays, missing components and claims under force majeure.

Consumers will soon start to confront shortages, often in areas they might not expect. For example, shipping containers are now in short supply because they are stuck in China, and I am told this particularly impacts the containers used for refrigerated goods. Are food shortages on the horizon?

It’s about more than consumer goods

The spread of the virus shows that this is about much more than the availability of goods. It is also about the extent of interconnection between people. A single small sales conference in Singapore with delegates who then dispersed to dozens of countries; the multi-national passengers on cruise ships; the millions of students with places at overseas universities. All this goes to prove that when problems and catastrophes occur, they are increasingly global in their impact.

How will the world react?

It is of course possible that business and politicians will seek to repatriate areas of production, or at least reduce dependence on what they may see as ‘risky’ countries. This has a certain logic and many might argue that these problems are in part a consequence of the low-cost economy, in which both business and consumers have for too long turned a blind eye to labor conditions, health standards, environmental impact and political repression.

Shaping our future

But an alternative to localization is for us to awaken to the fact we are one world, that we are all in this together. We could, as a global society, reject those politicians who seek to divide us and who resist truly global standards.

The implications of either route are enormous. Those who suggest there is a simple solution are either ignorant or charlatans. I certainly don’t pretend that I have the answer because ultimately, this is about building consensus. If there is one good thing about the coronavirus, it is that it may be the catalyst that generates true and honest debate about our values. Whether or not we like it, the reality is that we occupy one planet and have developed to a point where we are no longer independent and self-contained nations. Modern technology gives us all a voice. It is time to use it, to insist on politicians who are truly accountable and to engage in shaping our future.

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