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Zakaria: International Commerce Is the True Battleground November 20, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, News, Politics.
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Zakaria: International Commerce Is the True Battleground – Newsweek International Editions – MSNBC.com
Today we are living through something practically unique—simultaneous growth worldwide. The United States, Europe and Japan are all doing well, but so are China, India, Brazil, Turkey and a whole slew of former Third World countries. Their rise is powering the new global order. Emerging markets now account for 30 percent of the world economy and for 50 percent of global growth last year.  One important benefit has been that advanced industrial nations have maintained extremely low interest rates for almost two decades, enabling some countries—such as the United States—to grow faster than many experts predicted. This could not have happened without two global deflation machines, China and India, which keep prices low in goods and services, respectively.

If this sounds as if everything will work out fairy-tale style, it won’t. Global growth has its own complications. Demand for raw materials and energy is high and will keep rising. Countries that possess such resources—Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia—become islands of exception to the very rules of markets and trade that are sweeping the world. Thus global capitalism produces its own well-funded anti-capitalists.

Growth is also producing environmental degradation on a colossal scale. For those who worry about the United States’ not signing the Kyoto accords, keep in mind that China and India are already constructing 650 coal-fired power plants, whose combined CO2 emissions will be five times the total savings envisioned by the Kyoto accords.

For the industrialized world, the new global economy produces new stresses and strains. With hundreds of millions, if not billions of new entrants to global markets, Western workers fear for their wages. With new players in the global economy, industries of all kinds face new competitors.

There is no way to turn off this global economy, nor should one try. Every previous expansion of global capitalism has led to greater prosperity across the world. The story of the past 100 years is one of an ever-expanding pie. But this is a massive, complex process and requires enormous focus and attention. And while other nations around the world, from China to Chile, are playing to win, the United States as a government has barely focused on any of the major challenges or opportunities that it presents. We’re too busy settling disputes between Sunnis and Shiites in downtown Baghdad.

A century ago, another great global power was similarly occupied halfway across its world, fighting a war and organizing the constitutional arrangements of Dutch farmers in the Southern Transvaal. Great Britain eventually won the Boer War, but it lost its focus on the economic challenges it faced. And finally it lost something else: its standing as one of the great global powers.

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