International Trade and America's Place in the Global Economy - Globalization And The Anti-globalization Movement
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The move toward global free trade, or "globalization," has generated intense controversy. Proponents maintain that globalization has the potential to improve living standards throughout the world. Their arguments include the following:
- Countries and regions will become more productive by concentrating on industries in which they have a natural advantage and trading with other nations for goods in which they do not have an advantage.
- Multinational corporations will be able to realize economies of scale—that is, operate more economically because they are buying in bulk, selling to a much larger market, and utilizing a much larger labor pool. This will increase productivity and lead to greater prosperity.
- Free trade will lead to faster growth in developing countries.
- Increased incomes and the development of job-related skills among the citizens of poorer nations will foster the spread of information, education, and, ultimately, democracy.
Critics of globalization focus on the negative effects that multinational corporations have on people in the developing world. They argue that most of the profits from free trade flow to the United States and other industrialized countries; that local industries can be destroyed by competition from wealthier nations, causing widespread unemployment and social disruption; that centuries of cultural tradition can be quickly obliterated by the influence of international companies; and that multinational corporations often impinge on national sovereignty to protect their profits. Critics also note that the free trade policies are often applied unfairly, as the United States insists that other countries open their markets to American goods at the same time that it protects its own producers from competition. For example, the U.S. government has established numerous tariffs and regulations that raise the prices of imported food products, denying poor farmers in the developing world access to the lucrative U.S. market. In addition, opponents of globalization point out that the spread of multinational corporations can be detrimental to workers in industrialized nations by exporting high-paying jobs to countries with lower labor costs, and that international competition in the labor market could actually lead to lower living standards in the industrialized world.
The "anti-globalization movement" is not an organized group, but rather an umbrella term for many independent organizations who oppose the pursuit of corporate profits at the expense of social justice in the developing world. These groups often protest the actions of such organizations as the WTO, the IMF, and the World
Bank for their perceived bias toward corporations and wealthy nations. In 1999 a WTO conference in Seattle became a lightning rod for the movement, drawing more than 40,000 protestors in a massive demonstration that generated intense media attention and completely overshadowed the meeting itself.