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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Who gains from globalisation?
A BBC-2 series has been exploring the issue of globalisation, showing the links between countries and individuals in the global economy.
Tales from the Global Economy includes 'The Cappuccino Trail', transmitted on BBC Two on 26 August at 1920 BST, 'Greenspan Alert' transmitted on 2 September at 1820 BST, 'Where's Our Money' transmitted on 9 September at 1910 BST, and 'The Business of Christmas', transmitted on 16 September at 1840 BST.
The first programme examined the marketing of coffee, from the growers in Central America to the coffee bars of Europe and America.
Later programmes have explored the links between investors and developing countries and role of the head of the US central bank, Alan Greenspan, in setting interest rates. The last programme looks at the business of making toys for Christmas.
Globalisation has become one of the most important issues on the international agenda. Many world leaders argue that increasing globalisation through closer trade links is vital to restore economic growth.
But many protesters say that the global economic system is undemocratic and unfair to poor countries.
Is the world economy organised on a fair basis? Do people in developing countries get a fair share of what they produce? Will the growing globalisation of the world economy eventually benefit everyone?
The programme producer, Jeremy Newson, will be discussing your questions and comments in a live webcast on Thursday, 13th September at 1500BST.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
M Smith, UK
The rich get richer/poor get poorer cliché is getting old. Let's take individual responsibility and stop grouping economic classes. Buying products or building companies in poor countries cannot possibly create less opportunity for individuals in that country to make better for themselves. Nobody forces poor country citizens to work or not work for a "Global Corporation" so if they do choose to, it must be an opportunity they find beneficial. Buying products from a poor country economically speaking is the best thing that can happen to that country. What else is there? Socialist propaganda?
If the Federal Reserve in New York controls the global economy with its interest rate policy and, if the chairman of the Federal Reserve is accountable only to the US congress, is there not a democratic deficit in the very heart of the process of globalisation?
If the only "driving force" of the globalisation is the "profit", some of our actions should be directed to kill (or lower) this "profit" - if sales go down corporations will have no choice just to react and re-think their called "natural" (but still unethical) way to conduct business. There is definitely a price to pay, and strategies to work out, but are we going to do something or to stay like that, just complaining?
The concept of Globalisation is the exploitation of global opportunities and is most beneficial to the developed countries who are able to recognise that within these poor countries they are able to exploit resources. Globalisation helps these 'fat cats' to become richer at the expense of the poorer country. These large organisations will manipulate the local governments by helping with the local infrastructure and by paying them bribes. Most of the money made at the expense of cheap raw material and low labour costs will be taken out of the poor country to benefit the shareholders and the richer country.
Globalisation is a moustache for buying low and selling high the energies of poor workers in other countries. The marginal benefit in the standard of living of the buyers in developed countries is far greater than the marginal benefit derived by the workers in underdeveloped countries.
Nikhil Pande, US
No one has mentioned that one of the effects of this continuous march to Globalisation is 'the Greenhouse effect'. Tne consequences of Globalisation will affect everyone in the long run, for the worse I should think.
Steve M, UK
Globalisation, (a.k.a. Capitalism), benefits the rich only, it's not a matter of opinion; it's an economic/social fact. The other side of the coin is socialism; both philosophies have their problems, and have to be 'tweaked' in order to make them work. So, it seems to me that we should just pick the one that's the most mutually beneficial and keep working at it!
Muhannad al Nabulsi, Jordan
Big business and the already-rich! Everyone else suffers stress, pressure, lower wages, and threats (from the company to move elsewhere).
The temptation is to conclude that no matter what we do, we will always end up supporting harmful causes. For example, even buying a product can indirectly support child labour or cruelty to animals. When applied to pensions and investment funds, the link is more obvious. We must resist hopelessness however, because it denies the simple truth that we can improve (not transform) the world in our own small way by our own choices. "Ethical" investment institutions and banks DO exist, and by using these we can improve the way our money is put to use. Aside from that, it is also possible to invest directly in ethical or at least "neutral" stocks. There is no excuse for dodging personal responsibility!
Mr J Wilson in his response could do worse than recognise that there is no such thing as economic determinism. As one of his fellow countryman (GP Brockway) has noted "[t]here is a fatality about economics that in the end chokes any society that makes too great a distinction between the rewards of the favoured and of the disfavoured." Given the track record on "Kyoto", sounds like some know the value of everything and the price of nothing!
Arri London, EU/US
Globalisation can benefit developing countries, but only if they are allowed to trade on fair terms.
This means the US and EU keeping to their WTO commitments and reducing tariffs on textiles, agriculture and finished products, instead of low value raw materials.
This can only occur within a WTO where trade rules are strictly policed.
The alternative, getting rid of the WTO, would result in a free-for-all with developed countries under no legal obligation to accept imports from an increasingly marginalised developing world.
Many years ago I worked for an Aid organisation, and attended a conference on multi-national global expansion. I still recall the comments of one of the delegates from a very poor country who said "My people are so poor and desperate that the only thing worse than being exploited is not being exploited". This is the problem that must be resolved.
Here in Australia, all of our factories are closing down and going off shore, and we have many people unemployed and living on the streets. Why can't those companies open subsidiaries overseas instead of closing ours down? The only folk who seem to benefit by globalisation are the big corporations.
Maurice, Hong Kong
Globalisation is not a concept or a goal to achieve but an inevitable outcome of advanced capitalism which makes accumulation of wealth in a few economically rich countries, making the poor become poorer. Globalisation makes a monopoly of essential goods and services paving the way for rich countries to dictate terms which will be in their favour. Computer technology, medicine and even food have been monopolised. The so-called 'market economy" is a tool which is commonly used by the rich to exploit poor countries in the name of globalisation.
This is the height of capitalism and its downfall is imminent when the evils of globalisation become exposed.
I have a response to a comment made in regards to globalisation by Mr Wong Shew Yam of Malaysia who said that "There has to be some higher purpose other than simply a profit motive."
Well Mr Yam, the fact is that profit is the only motive for globalisation and to "imagine" otherwise is simply a fantasy. I am sorry Mr Yam but that is the way the world really is. Like it or not.
Barry T, England
Does this mean we are ALL one big happy family? I think not, it only benefits the big players in Industry, Commerce and Services. We don't need it, we need to re-focus on the important things in life like helping countries become independent financially, which in some cases means the removal of the incumbent political regime. The value of our monetary system has gone backwards as have our values on human life, these are the important things, we don't need to have an inflated economy.
I think only developed nations get benefit from the globalisation. I am not saying this because I belong to a developing country. Any step pertaining to the World Trade Organisation or other organisations back developing and underdeveloped countries into the vicious circle of poverty.
Common sense tells me that this situation must reach a critical point in the near future. I don't think it is avoidable, despite the fantastic efforts of individuals and organisations to improve the situation. I would like to believe that intervention at UN level would help, but I have become cynical in my middle age. I am afraid that some form of economic crisis is the only event that will change the cycle. Perhaps it is poetic justice that such a crisis would (hopefully) impact the consumer nations more than the producers - who will, after all, still have their produce.
How typical that someone from Dubya's home state (C, Keith Orrison, Texas) should say something as absurdly meaningless as: "I believe that so-called globalisation is nothing more than the natural progression of freedom". Yes, and the new world order will be a lovely sunny place where everyone's happy. If the person (and others) who wrote this read what the posters from countries directly effected by globalisation had written, they might have thought differently. Globalisation means only one thing, that the shareholders and executives of multinationals get richer whilst the poor get poorer. Any pretence otherwise is delusional.
Scott Brown, USA
Red Ken may have been misguided in the past, but he's right on this issue
The problem with free trade is that it rewards the most efficient producers full stop, even if they're destroying the environment and virtually enslaving their workers. We've got to get away from this dogma that tariffs are inherently bad, and start using them to reward those who treat their workers and the environment, with respect, and to punish those who don't.
Who benefits from the global coffee trade? The consumer. And what's
wrong with that? When I buy coffee, I'm after a drink - I'm not trying to be a social service!
We in the coffee growing countries merely grow coffee for purposes of generating revenue for ourselves and we export it without adding value. It is high time for us to go into joint ventures with coffee roasters worldwide and ADD VALUE so that we get real value for our coffee and thereby improve on our socio-economic welfare.
Wong Shew Yam, Malaysia
Is there such a thing as globalisation? Even your figures suggest that only 0.5% of Americans are properly online. And that is the richest country in the world! The figures for the most populous countries in the world - China, India, Indonesia - are much lower. Don't you agree that by far the most important aspect of 'globalisation' is the international transfer of capital, overwhelmingly from financial institutions and corporations? But this is not new at all! Things like the internet and e-mail have only served to put a face on a phenomenon which is decades - if not centuries - old.
You would think that part of this land could be used to grow rice, beans or plantains to help improve the nutritional situation of the masses. But no. Cameroon has been an exporter of agric products from colonial times to the present day.
Globalisation is actually accelerating 'monopolisation'. The global companies ultimately merge together and then they start determining the economy. The best way to stop them is to encourage local production and taxing global transaction or mergers. It might be cheaper production for the globalised companies considering economies of scale but that can be countered by giving tax benefits to local small scale industries.
Christopher Lamb, England
Markets work. Sometimes the cycles are too long for impatient people, but imbalances eventually correct themselves one way or another. Just look at the electricity markets in the US. The California situation is already correcting itself. We will go from a shortage to a glut. The same with coffee. We have a glut, and we will eventually have a shortage. Poor producers will eventually go out of production if they can't make their costs and a shortage will result. Things will correct. The only people in the west who should be concerned about this are coffee futures traders.
Alfred Fiks, Costa Rica
The stock markets all around the world have had seven unprecedented years of growth. Now they are going through a period of correction and revaluation based on the profits companies are actually making. Globalisation is becoming more and more intense, and companies are striving ever harder to squeeze the last few dollars of profit out of their goods and services.
Do we really think that company margins and profits can be increased indefinitely and stock prices always ultimately go up?
Every great civilisation that there has ever been has ultimately comes to an end. Surely the current great "civilisation" will finish the same way to be replaced with a new order. To think otherwise is simply unwise and unrealistic (this assumes of course that the world isn't destroyed beyond self-repair first by globalisation, and the pressure to make a fast buck).
I believe that so-called globalisation is nothing more than the natural progression of freedom. Access to the best products and services regardless of their national origin should be the right of every human everywhere. One world one market is a great concept. The only drawback is when countries that engage in protectionism or nations such as China who use prison labour these practices are an antithesis to the natural order of free trade, and such nations should be barred from the global marketplace.
Americans must remember that the reason the food prices in the States are so low, is because the vast majority of the produce is harvested by migrant workers who have no "rights", get very low pay and work under the most appalling labour laws in any "Developed" country. Even here in Grenada, a so-called third world country, the workers enjoy labour laws that most working class Americans can only dream of.
Toby Butler, UK
What we are seeing are only the first steps to achieving world government. So we are still witnessing the birth pangs of globalisation, even if the coffee trade is just an example. A time will come when things will smooth out and there would be no such wide divide between rich and poor, but for now we certainly need more people who take initiatives, like Cafédirect.
To Simon, England - Oh please! Are you trying to tell me that you can't afford to pay another £1.64 for a jar of decent coffee, that you'll get a large number of cups out of? At less than the cost of a pint, I find that hard to swallow! Whilst I only buy Cafedirect myself, I think more coffee bars and restaurants should think about changing over to a fair trade coffee so customers can choose to have a cuppa with a clear conscience when they're out!
The collapse in coffee prices is largely the fault of the World Bank. They advised developing countries to grow coffee as a lucrative cash crop, resulting in oversupply. Now these countries can neither sell it nor feed themselves. God save us from well-intentioned amateurs.
Tim Hiscock, UK
All very concerning: short term 'cheap' = long term expensive. Slightly off the point, but I was reading about UK farming in the paper at the weekend, and how the countryside will collapse as we know it if farmers continue to go under (because we want cheap food). It seems to me that the demands for growth on growth profits and our sights for 'now' rather than 'then' on a number of fronts - from coffee to farming - are denigrating our world as well as life in the UK bit by bit.
I found the programme entertaining but disjointed and confused. Nevertheless, I went out next day and bought the new Cafedirect blend but was disappointed with the taste - mainly as a result of a mild roast. Surely not in tune with today's coffee culture?
Verdict: worthy but must try harder!
Despite the seeming volatility of the markets it still behoves customers to have a conscience when making their supermarket choices and to think of the poor in the Third World.
The only way to counter the "market forces" is to pay a fair price for a certified coffee that will be returned to the grower. As we continue to find out, "cheap" now is very expensive in the long run: In the loss of species and habitat, and the human suffering it creates. Changing our consumption patterns to create greater global benefit is a profound, yet simple, moral act. Buying sustainably grown coffee (shade grown/organic/fair-trade certified)really does make a world of difference.
Do boycotts still have any effect or influence in these situations? I am not talking about embargoes - like the US stance on Cuba - but the unwillingness of millions of consumers to buy a product.
Danny O'Keefe, USA
Do boycotts still have any effect or influence in these situations? I am not talking about embargoes - like the US stance on Cuba - but the unwillingness of millions of consumers to buy a product.
When you consider we only drink caffeine-rich coffee to help us keep up with the rat race - thereby leaving poor countries even further behind - the possibility of there being any good ethics behind the coffee industry is beyond me. Anyway, excuse me while I go and get my double espresso.
The programme also left me wondering after stating the 76 cent production cost why Cafe Direct has to pay the grower $1-60? Thereby making the product expensive and a luxury item. Why not ask the grower his minimum needed price to survive and continue production, guarantee him that and pass that on to the consumer, then everyone would benefit and be able to buy the product. Personally I would love to buy it but at £1.64p more than what I usually buy there is now way, despite my beliefs....
There seems to be a tremendous media circus surrounding coffee with Time Out, the Observer and the broad sheets all dedicating space to the discrepancy between high - and rising - coffee prices on the high street and the volatile markets and suffering farmers. Timely and 'stimulating' viewing just as Costa prepare to push their Fair Trade brand to UK consumers Let's hope it sells and encourages more people to buy responsibly in future.
I would like to buy the fair trade coffee but it is unfortunate that they do not (at present) do a de-caff range. I will continue to wait for the day but for now the conglomerates have the upper hand.
The shoppers in Safeway's to me summed up our arrogance and ignorance.
I have been buying CafeDirect for a few years and this excellent programme only reinforced my determination to continue.
I still believe that the governments have a major role to play in the globalisation of coffee and that as only 1% of the global coffee trade is performed by Fair trade coffee. More should be done to restrict the large multinationals gaining large profits on such business, whereby millions suffer.
Denise brown, England
It was disappointing to see Cafe Direct people on the TV programme repeatedly referring to Britain as England. They try to promote political correctness but cause offence to me and millions of other Scots. By the way I always buy Fair Trade Tea and Coffee.
I am very optimistic that the more that people know about the effects their shopping decisions have on the producers in developing countries, the more will buy fair-trade and Café Direct products.
This just shows what's wrong with the global economy which is what the May the first protests where about. Isn't there a better way of doing trade whereby we tax coffee to give money to the third world?
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