Globalisation and the impact of COVID-19

Published on April 28, 2021   22 min
Please wait while the transcript is being prepared...
My name is Ian Goldin. I'm a professor of Globalisation and Development at Oxford University and the author of a recent book called Terra Incognita: A 100 Maps to Survive the Next 100 Years. Today, I'm going to talk about globalisation and how it has been impacted by COVID-19.
My own view is that globalisation has been the most progressive force in the history of humanity. That is because it has brought more jobs and more health to more people, more quickly than any force in history. By globalisation, I mean the flows across national borders of goods, of services, of finance, of people, and most significantly, of ideas. It is those which drive history and accelerate it. It is these flows that spread vaccines around the world, that spread literacy around the world, that spread ideas like democracy, like freedom, like gender equality, like Black Lives Matter, like the meteor movement, like the climate protests. These are all spread by globalisation flows across national borders. So are jobs, the opportunities to export, opportunities to invest, the opportunities to go from dire poverty to higher levels of income. As a result of these flows, which have accelerated over the past 30 years, over two billion people around the world have escaped dire poverty. Many of them in East Asia, in South Asia, across Africa and Latin America, as well as in Eastern Europe.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the end of the Soviet Union, which followed that, created the impetus for globalisation, for this phase. But it was followed very soon by the integration of Europe in the Maastricht Treaty in the early 1990s, the NAFTA treaty, which led to the trade integration of Canada, Mexico, and the USA. The Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, the opening up of China and many other forces which lowered barriers to trade, improved connectivity, contributed to much higher levels of cross-border flows. Perhaps, most significant was the development of the World Wide Web in 1989. It is that which provided a platform for much faster information flows. It is those flows of ideas which I believe are the most significant of globalisation's flows. globalisation has brought many benefits and led to the average life expectancies in the world increasing by over 15 years over this period of a few decades. Simple ideas like washing your hands prevents contagious diseases, like smoking kills you, and very complicated ideas like those embedded in vaccines and new cures for cancer. While it's brought broad progress, globalisation is also extremely dangerous and can be destabilizing. It's a force for immense good, but also can be one, left immensely bad.