Globalization and International Trade
“Globalization” refers to the growing interdependence of countries resulting from the increasing integration of trade, finance, people, and ideas in one global marketplace. International trade and cross-border investment flows are the main elements of this integration.
Globalization started after World War II but has accelerated considerably since the mid-1980s, driven by two main factors. One involves technological advances that have lowered the costs of transportation, communication, and computation to the extent that it is often economically feasible for a firm to locate different phases of production in different countries. The other factor has ...view middle of the document...
Moreover, for countries that are actively engaged in globalization, the benefits come with new risks and challenges. The balance of globalization's costs and benefits for different groups of countries and the world economy is one of the hottest topics in development debates.
Costs and Benefits of Free Trade
For participating countries the main benefits of unrestricted foreign trade
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stem from the increased access of their producers to larger, international markets. For a national economy that access means an opportunity to benefit from the international division of labor, on the one hand, and the need to face stronger competition in world markets, on the other. Domestic producers produce more efficiently due to their international specialization and the pressure that comes from foreign competition, and consumers enjoy a wider variety of domestic and imported goods at lower prices. In addition, an actively trading country benefits from the new technologies that “spill over” to it from its trading partners, such as through the knowledge embedded in imported production equipment. These technological spillovers are particularly important for developing countries because they give them a chance to catch up more quickly with the developed countries in terms of productivity. Former centrally planned economies, which missed out on many of the benefits of global trade because of their politically imposed isolation from market economies, today aspire to tap into these benefits by reintegrating with the global trading system. But active participation in international trade also entails risks, particularly those associated with the strong competition in international markets. For example, a country runs the risk that some of its
industries—those that are less competitive and adaptable—will be forced out of business. Meanwhile, reliance on foreign suppliers may be considered unacceptable when it comes to industries with a significant role in national security. For example, many governments are determined to ensure the so-called food security of their countries, in case food imports are cut off during a war. In addition, governments of developing countries often argue that recently established industries require temporary protection until they become more competitive and less vulnerable to foreign competition. Thus governments often prohibit or reduce selected imports by introducing quotas, or make imports more expensive and less competitive by imposing tariffs. Such protectionist policies can be economically dangerous because they allow domestic producers to continue producing less efficiently and eventually lead to economic stagnation. Wherever possible, increasing the economic efficiency and international competitiveness of key industries should be considered as an alternative to protectionist policies. A country that attempts to produce almost everything it needs domestically deprives itself of the...