Opening Remarks to the Asia-Pacific Regional Dialogue Under the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization

by Mr Yasuyuki Nodera, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific

Statement | Bangkok | 16 December 2002

President Halonen, Lord Brett, Dr. Surin, Ms. Tauli-Corpuz, Honorable members of the Secretariat of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation, Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to Bangkok. Welcome to this all important Regional Dialogue for the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation. You are here today, to add your voice, to help millions of others in the region add their voice to the process of globalisation. You are here today, in the words of Mr. Somavia the Convenor of the Commission - to help make globalisation more inclusive.

Why does globalisation - on the surface an arcane subject of economic integration - arouse such passions and protests, from Seattle to Johannesburg to Florence. The answer is paradoxical, because globalisation works, and it does not work. Globalisation is very obviously seen to work for some people, raising incomes, lowering poverty, building infrastructure, bringing in technology, lowering disease, reducing vulnerability in lives. But globalisation is also very obviously observed not to work for some people, excluding large parts of the population, even excluding whole countries, attacking people’s jobs and livelihoods, replacing them with other people, lowering the market price of their products, bringing in competing products from abroad, not affecting huge pools of unemployed and underemployed workers, not raising stagnating demand for traditional products, not adding investment or technology to these industries, not affecting chronic or even new diseases, and making human lives more not less vulnerable. So globalisation is provocative because it very obviously touches and improves some peoples lives and transforms countries, but does not touch or transform other people’s lives and their countries. If globalisation did not work, it would be a dead subject. It is provacative precisely because it is observed to work, for some, but not others. And it increases the gap between them.

Worse, globalisation is seen to be fickle. Nowehere more so than in this region of the Asia-Pacific. Globalisation is seen to have worked its transforming economic miracle in South-East Asia over the decade of the 80s and most of the 90s, and then plunged the very globalising countries into a financial and economic crisis over 1997 and 1998. Worse still, the primarily affected economies were beginning to accept the argument that globalisation was less to blame for the financial crisis than their own exchange and capital regimes, were implementing policy reforms, and just recovering from the crisis in 1999 and 2000, when a global synchronised recession hit the entire Asia-Pacific region. Recovery from the regional and global recessions has been akin to the Wall Street term ‘dead cat bounce’. Even a dead cat thrown from high enough, will bounce a little. Growth prospects for the region are 1% this year, up from under 1% last year, and recovery to 4% expected to take half a decade.

The inclusion of some people and countries at some points in time, and exclusion of others, by globalisation, is attributed now near unanimously, largely to an uneven playing field. Globalisation is the integration of countries and people, brought about through technological change - reduction in transport and communication costs, and institutional change - reduction in barriers to the flow of goods, services, capital, knowledge, and people. The Uruguay round of trade talks to lower these barriers is perceived widely to have benefitted the access of the more developed economies to the markets of the less developed economies. The developed economies on the other hand continue to maintain high tarriff barriers around their own markets in agriculture and labour intensive products, precisely the sectors where the developing economies have greater relative advantage. This gives a playing field termed as level as the Himalayas, 0. And it does not begin to take into account the more problematic issue of movement of people across borders. With the scuttling of Seattle, the Doha round of trade talks is meant to spark of a ‘development round’, to level the playing field, on calls from within the WTO by Mr. Supachai, by the IMF, Mr. Kohler, and the World Bank.

Accordingly these are the three main themes which have been set as the basis for the panel discussions in this Regional Dialogue. The first theme is ‘The impact of globalisation on people - the included and the excluded’. The second theme is ‘The Asian financial crisis: lessons learned, regional and sub-regional strategies for globalisation’. And the third theme is, ‘Regional views on international policies and negotiations for globalisation: what aspects should be changed in the areas of trade, finance and development’. The background paper before you sets out some of the broad issues to consider.

Let me now request President Halonen, who is the distinguished Co-chair of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation, to introduce to you the work of the Commission. We are indeed priveleged that she can be with us for the Regional Dialogue, and not just to initiate it, but to join us in the deliberations over these two days.We will then have the benefit of hearing from some of the honourable members of the Commission, Lord Brett, and Ms. Tauli-Corpuz, and the Executive Secretary of the Commission Mr. Gopinath. Subsequently we will move into the three thematic Panel Sessions that I outlined, and a set of Closing Remarks.

It is a packed agenda Ladies and Gentlemen, and I bid you great success in your deliberations.

And now Ladies and Gentlemen, President Halonen.