Globalization reduces poverty, lowers prices for consumers, raises average wages, and reduces the possibility of conflict, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo told the crowd attending the 18th Annual Cohen International Relations Lecture on April 8.
“Globalization is a powerful force of good in the world,” Zedillo said, adding that improved international trade relationships can pave the way for prosperity and peace.
“Economic interdependence makes it significantly less likely that two states will be in conflict,” Zedillo said. “Trade, by being mutually beneficial, gives each party a stake in the well being of the other.”
Zedillo’s talk, “Globalization at the Crossroads,” was funded by an endowment from Lehigh alumnus Bernard Cohen. Zedillo, director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, worked diligently as Mexico’s president from 1994–2000 to democratize his country by instituting economic, political, and judicial reforms.
He believes that the reform of current government policies will aid in the removal of national barriers to trade, investment, and movement of people around the world.
Refuting the critics
Zedillo conceded that globalization does have its downsides, but contended that if the process were halted, the consequences would be disastrous. Zedillo refuted claims that globalization was a primary cause of child labor and environmental degradation, calling these charges “nonsense.” He attributed those world ills to poverty.
Globalization, by supporting income growth, will actually reduce child labor and other forms of abominable child exploitation, he said. The environment also benefits from globalization because increased income, coupled with the right environmental policies, can help economies move from higher to lower levels of consumption, he added.
“It is essential to admit that the primary responsibility for achieving economic growth and fighting poverty lies within the developing countries themselves,” Zedillo said.
And it is up to each country to take advantage of the opportunities presented by globalization, he said.
“There is no way around building a strong system of good governments, imposing macroeconomic discipline, and making sufficient investment in infrastructure and education,” Zedillo said.
He argued that the public must build strong institutions capable of guaranteeing the rule of law, in addition to implementing required social and economic policies. Once economic interdependence is set up, multilateral systems can be adopted, he said.
A multilateral approach
It is Zedillo’s strong conviction that sooner, rather than later, all nations—even the most powerful—will recognize the need for a multilateral approach to trade issues.
“The right way to proceed is not to undermine its institutions, but to reform them so that they can better serve the causes of human rights, security, peace and prosperity,” Zedillo said.
Zedillo insisted that globalization must expand in 2004 to attain such universal goals as fewer people living in poverty and greater access to clean water around the globe. He said it is crucial for the United States to retake a leadership role in globalization.
Zedillo believes that peaceful and lasting international relations depend upon the enlightened, non-aggressive, leadership of the U.S. as the world’s sole superpower.