By the third time World Bank President Robert Zoellick repeated the phrase "an inclusive and sustainable globalization" in a speech he delivered Wednesday to the Center for Global Development, I began to suspect that it was no accident. Sure enough, today comes the news, via the blog NextBillion.net, that the World Bank Institute is "hosting an executive development program titled 'Inclusive and Sustainable Business: Creating Markets with the Poor.'"
A new and terrible meme has been born. This would be is the new, user-friendly version of globalization, designed to replace the old globalization, which was exclusive and unsustainable.
Whatever. It's easy to be skeptical of speeches by World Bank presidents, especially after the Paul Wolfowitz fiasco, but Zoellick's speech, taken as a whole, was quite interesting. He adroitly drew connections between issues of trade, commodity price rises, climate change, the rise of sovereign wealth funds and the economic misadventures centered in the United States over the past year. He called for a "New Deal for Global Food Policy" and while it sounded a little discordant for a Republican party apparatchik to be invoking the memory of Franklin Roosevelt's interventionist government, he made it clear that the World Bank needed to take a leading role in addressing "not only on hunger and malnutrition, access to food and its supply, but also the interconnections with energy, yields, climate change, investment, the marginalization of women and others, and economic resiliency and growth. Food policy needs to gain the attention of the highest political levels, because no one country or group can meet these interconnected challenges."
How the World Works could not agree more. We are also heartened by the analysis that, even as global economic growth has begun to slow in tandem with the U.S. economy's woes, there are some positive signs.
...There is something strikingly different about this downswing: China, India, and other rising economic powers are offering alternative poles of growth for the global economy. This is not a "decoupling," because the interconnections of globalization will transmit effects from the developed world's financial problems and slowdown; it represents instead a welcome diversification of the sources of growth. More than half of the growth in global demand for imports is now originating in developing countries, providing export opportunities for both developing and developed economies. This amounts to a rebalancing -- not a decoupling -- that supports an inclusive and sustainable globalization. Just as diversification is beneficial for an investment portfolio, so it is for sources of growth in the world economy.
Two other notable points. Zoellick made a provocative comparison between the fate of the stalled Doha round of the world trade talks and the immense challenge of negotiating a global approach to climate change: "If negotiators of 150 economies cannot manage the political tradeoffs of the Doha Round to reap the clear benefits, it does not augur well for bringing developed and developing countries together on a new accord for climate change." And he proposed that the world's sovereign wealth funds, which now control around $3 trillion in assets, commit to investing one percent of their holdings in Africa.
According to a blog post by Lawrence MacDonald at the Center for Global Development, Zoellick's address was "was well-received by a standing room-only crowd of nearly 200 people including development policy experts, policymakers, researchers and representatives of international NGOs." One imagines that exactly that audience wasn't quite so receptive to the initiatives championed by Zoellick's predecessor, Paul Wolfowitz. In a world plagued with gargantuan problems, that's progress, of a sort.