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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 18:54 GMT
Debate: Globalisation - good or bad?
WDM's Barry Coates and ICC's Richard McCormick debate globalisation
Mr Coates (left) and Mr McCormick argue it out
Anti-globalisation protesters have taken centre-stage at a host of recent summits, including the World Economic Forum (WEF). BBC News Online asked the president of the International Chamber of Commerce, Richard McCormick, and Barry Coates of the World Development Movement to debate whether the protesters are doing the right thing.

Why the protesters are wrong

by Richard D. McCormick, president of the International Chamber of Commerce, at the 2002 World Economic Forum (WEF)

It's time for business to move the debate away from the cheap sloganeering and mindless vandalism of the protesters in the streets and stand up and proclaim the benefits of globalisation.

For without it, the developing world and the millions in it who live in extreme poverty will lose the best chance they have of improving their lot in life.

Several years ago at the WEF, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan launched his Global Compact.

The premise is a simple one - business and the UN pursue complementary objectives.

The UN focuses on peace and development, while the task of business is to create wealth and prosperity.

It's hard to have one without the other. Therefore business and the UN should, and do, work together in promoting the values they share in the areas of human rights, labour standards and environmental protection.

Force for good

Multinationals are a powerful force for good in the world. They spread wealth, work, technologies that raise living standards and better ways of doing business.

That's why so many developing countries are competing fiercely to attract their investment.

The protesters in the streets are modern-day Luddites who want to make the world safe for stagnation.

They claim to worry about the well-being of the hundreds of millions of people in the developing world who are living in poverty.

In reality, their resistance to globalisation and their hostility to business make them an enemy of the world's poor.

Maybe that's why people from developing countries are so rare in the ranks of the demonstrators.

The case against business globalisation

by Barry Coates, director, World Development Movement, at the 2002 WEF.

The power of the WEF comes from its influence over governments in shaping the global economy in the corporate interest.

Governments are told to follow two paths.

First, deregulate and privatise. This has been pursued in over 90 countries through structural adjustment policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The bitter legacy is growing poverty in all regions of the developing world, except China.

Second, leave business to regulate itself.

Corporations have promised to adopt voluntary ethical standards in response to growing public concern over social and environmental damage.

But these have often been a public relations exercise to deflect criticism and the few companies that are implementing these standards compete at a disadvantage to the majority of companies that don't.

The WEF model

This is the WEF business model: unregulated, exclusive and beyond the reach of government.

WDM and other groups from developed and developing countries are holding an alternative forum that challenges this model and proposes alternatives that prioritise poverty reduction, environmental sustainability and human rights.

Above all, these groups emphasise that it is the role of governments to regulate markets in the public interest.

Yet the pressure from business lobby groups is to regulate governments, not corporations, through international agreements.

These would remove restrictions on business to pursue profits in any industry, in any country, at any cost.

More free trade pacts

This is most evident in the trade negotiations under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation which aim to extend free trade.

It is not only external barriers to free trade that are under attack, but the power of governments to enact domestic regulation in the public interest.

At stake is the future of public services accessible to all.

At the WEF, the most serious threat to the welfare of the world's poor comes not from those outside the conference hall, but from those inside.

World leaders and business executives converge on New York for the World Economic Forum

Porto Alegre meeting

Background issues



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