Graphic by Melinda Szekeres

Globalization Is Not A Fairytale

When we decide to ignore the voice of unhappy individuals against globalization, we are consciously letting protectionism take over.

Apr 2, 2017

The abrupt growth of technology throughout this past decade has led to an increased interconnectedness between cultures that has never been experienced before. Denying the progress that spurred from intercultural interactions would be futile. Without the peripheral and core impact of globalization, I wouldn’t be writing this piece and nor would NYU Abu Dhabi exist. However, I feel the need to open up a discussion on the numerous drawbacks of globalization. When we ignore the voices of individuals who are against globalization, we push the marginalized to take action at the first chance possible, actions which in turn produce protectionist measures and nationalistic policies. This process occurred in two of the greatest world powers: the United States of America and Great Britain.
Populism in itself should not be held responsible for the rise of Donald Trump or Brexit. The term itself doesn’t mean anything; it’s a fugacious concept created to give a name to the concerns of ordinary people. The governing political parties over the last several years are responsible for creating Donald Trump — they did not listen to ordinary people. Not racist white men but rather a silent majority cast their vote on Nov. 9; this is the sad truth that many liberals don’t like to admit. For many years, politics in the United States has been out of touch with reality. Politicians in Washington were constructing world trade treaties while workers in Texas and Kentucky were losing their jobs. The North American Free Trade Agreement eliminated all tariffs between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, giving birth to the largest free trade area in the world. Too often, however, we forget the consequences of such decisions. Since the ratification of NAFTA, Mexico has experienced a drastic decrease in unemployment due to thousands of American industries moving their factories over the border. 845,000 jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector were lost due to the movement of U.S. industries to Mexico. A kind-hearted American would be relieved to know that the treaty helped their neighboring country. But while the fact that many Mexicans found jobs would be a valid argument, the real question is, what kind of jobs did they find?
U.S. industries don’t change countries just because they feel like it. There are underlying reasons related to costs. In Mexico, the average hourly wage is $2.43, with only one in seven people earning the minimum wage. Mexican workers are so desperate to be employed that they lower their standards in response to American industries coming over. This should not be considered an example of positive competition between two countries. It’s the suppression of a population to the detriment of another. Who really gains from this?
To better understand who benefits from these pro-globalization agreements, let’s take a look at a fairly recent example. Less than a month ago, the U.S. government terminated all negotiations in the Transatlantic Trade And Investment Partnership. For many years, the TTIP received almost no media coverage. This agreement, negotiated between the United States and the European Union, aimed to reduce regulatory barriers for big businesses. The regulations that had to be reduced ranged from food safety to environmental legislation.
The most worrisome aspect, however, was that the trade agreement decreased the sovereign power of individual nations. In fact, the introduction of TTIP meant that transnational corporations would have been able to sue governments if a change in policy caused a loss of profit for their businesses. It’s evident that large unbounded corporations are the ones gaining the most from this worldwide transformation. Small to medium-sized businesses, on the other hand, suffer. They cannot compete with the organizational structures of multinational businesses and, if a price war takes place, they will clearly end up wiped out.
There is no right or wrong answer. Globalization will continue to take place and benefit many individuals. Future policy makers will have the responsibility to make important decisions that will shape the world we live in. Are we destined for a single world government, led by a few powerful monopolies in every sector? Or will we rebel against free trade agreements to prevent the death of small businesses? The recent growth of populist parties points towards the second hypothesis, but never underestimate the power of the consolidated political establishment.
Globalisation is not a fairy tale. Living in such a globalised environment as NYUAD implicitly pushes us away from any discussion on the topic. Since we have experienced and learned about globalization firsthand we feel there is nothing wrong with it. We’ve been exposed to the benefits born from different cultures interacting with each other and learned the importance of sharing perspectives. This, however, has been possible thanks to countries coming together to make the most of trade agreements. We often forget about the individuals suffering from this rapid expansion that has brought transnational corporations to the forefront of decision-making in the 21st century.
I would urge students to challenge their views of globalization and to see this complex phenomena as a point in the spectrum between zero sum and win-win, rather than just the latter.
Andrea Arletti is a staff writer. Email him at
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