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Don’t give up on globalisation yet

" If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don't understand what citizenship means."
Theresa May, UK PM

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Rena Schild

"THERE IS NO GLOBAL ANTHEM. NO GLOBAL CURRENCY. NO CERTIFICATE OF GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP.” - DONALD TRUMP, US PRESIDENT

 

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"BUT IF YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF THE WORLD, YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF NOWHERE. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT CITIZENSHIP MEANS." - THERESA MAY, UK PM

These quotes, from two of the most-powerful leaders in the world, are exclamation marks on what many are arguing is the waning of globalisation – by which is commonly understood to mean a blurring of national barriers in the movement of people, goods, finance and regulation.

I remain a firm believer in the benefits of a globalised world. I was born in one country, went to school in another, carry the passport of a third and work in a fourth.

My immediate colleagues are both citizens of countries different to the ones in which they were born. Yet our shared values and beliefs unite us more than the differences divide us.

I don’t shy away from the reality that there have been losers from the liberal free-market approach that has produced (and benefitted) global citizens. Stagnant wages, poor infrastructure and health and education systems bursting at the seams are just a few of the examples.

These are legitimate grievances. Leaders need to address the harsh truth the returns from globalisation have not been equally distributed.

However, it is important we consider the evidence and  take a more measured approach, steering away from demonising a part of the populace or responding with knee-jerk reactions that would result in a more closed and illiberal world.

We would all be losers from that.

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A graph produced by GlobeScan to accompany a 14-nation survey on global citizenship it released in August, 2016. (GlobeScan)

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

Advances in technology, communications and the integration of globalised supply chains mean the world we live in has shrunk.

Even the most far-flung locations or ideas are never more than a tap on a smartphone away.

Technology has redefined how we communicate with friends, family and colleagues - no matter how remote – as well as how we interact with service providers like banks and utilities and, increasingly, how our whole lives are organised.

This is all reflective of the move towards a more inclusive and global view of the world and away from a narrow and insular perspective. That is something to be celebrated, not derided or condemned.

A recent BlueNotes article sought to articulate the impact technology will have through automation and where the opportunities and jobs of the future are likely to be. It is likely the coming shifts will shrink the world even further.

But it is also likely there will emerge a dichotomy of opportunities and jobs: those where the playing field will be global (remote radiologists, self-driving trucks in the Pilbara controlled from afar, global peers to peer platforms which globalise lending), and those which will remain truly local (the local barista, artisanal cheese, wine, foods, physiotherapy, palliative care).

There is likely to be displacement of some jobs, while others will become redundant and there will be a need for those impacted to update their skillsets to better match this new reality. That is a challenge to be embraced, not suppressed.

And despite the anxiety about robots taking our jobs, it’s sobering to consider since 1950, with all the technology disruption which has taken place, only one job category out of 270 listed in the US census has disappeared: elevator operator.

YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT

For all companies, with client needs changing and the digital economy bringing opportunities and challenges, banks will need to adapt the way in which we finance and facilitate the flow of goods and services to be able to remain meaningful to clients.

There are seemingly opposing forces at work: it is becoming more imperative banks are both local in our understanding of the intricacies and differences in culture and approach, and wide-angle and global in our vision to ensure we are continually providing the best service to our clients.

Banks also need to stay abreast of changes in technology, regulations and the manner in which the world around us is evolving and the impact this has on the solutions we provide to our clients. Clients need banks to be more global, not less.

Global trade (driven by the flow of capital, both financial and human) remains the best way to continue the march of economic progress and keep lifting people out of poverty across the world.

According to the OECD, trade is “a central part of the economic growth and poverty reduction agenda”.

The last 60 years have seen the transformation of countries in the Asia Pacific region from largely agrarian societies to regional and global economic powerhouses as was well articulated by my colleague Mark Whelan.

Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan come to mind. Their success has largely been possible due to the open trade policies which underpinned the world at the time.

Global companies have adopted different strategies and approaches to deal with the challenges and often competing priorities thrown up by global and local forces. 

For example, Levi’s has articulated a goal to be the world’s most sustainable apparel company and, to this end, has identified water as a as being critical to their business, the communities they operate in and the consumers who use their products.

By taking a holistic end-to-end view of the life cycle of a pair of denim jeans, the company has taken meaningful and tangible steps to reduce water consumption in its overall supply chain and thereby met the local challenges of scarce water supply in cotton growing areas whilst addressing the broader concerns of its global customer base.

Siemens, named as the world’s most sustainable company by Forbes, has adopted the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which seeks to strike a balance between people, environment and profit.

As these examples illustrate, local and global concerns are coalescing as the world becomes more integrated.

DEFINING

The defining problems of our times, from global warming, to pollution, to violent conflict and the resultant waves of human migration are global in nature.

But they also bring with them significant local impact, which implies our business and elected leaders will need to balance between the global and the local when designing strategies and policies to manage and mitigate the risks associated with them.

We are all global citizens.

Charles Wachira is an Associate Director, Institutional at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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