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An Interview with Ernesto Zedillo

Ernesto Zedillo is the former president of Mexico. He spoke with Global Viewpoint editor Nathan Gardels at the World Economic Forum (Davos) in New York on Friday, Feb. 1).

GLOBAL VIEWPOINT: What is the fate of globalization since September 11?

ERNESTO ZEDILLO: After September 11, there were some loud voices claiming that the world which was integrating so rapidly had been stopped in its tracks. I remember Oxford philosopher John Gray being quoted glumly, and prominently, in the Economist saying, "This is the end of globalization."

This attitude was quite hysterical. I believed before September 11, and I believe now, that to have a more stable and more secure world, especially for the poorest, we need more globalization, not less. If anything, I think the period since September 11 has reaffirmed that the future must lie in freer trade and global integration, not disintegration or protected markets.

Of course, this doesn't mean there are no problems or contradictions. People expect a lot from globalization and hold conflicting views. On the one hand, globalization is expected to raise incomes; on the other hand, it is also said to be the chief cause of poverty and the deterioration of the environment.

This confusion, in my view, means that those of us in favor of free trade and investment have not been as effective in getting out the message as those in the anti-globalization protests. For that reason, the highest priority is to engage in a dialogue with the anti-globalization activists like those gathered now in Puerto Alegre, Brazil, at the World Social Forum. They need to be educated by the facts on the ground, in Mexico, for example, that
globalization is the best friend of the poor, not their worst enemy.

GV: Do you see any change in attitude of the rich countries toward the poor since September 11?

ZEDILLO: In fact, I do. The attitude toward development aid has improved on the part of the developing countries. In the 1960s, the developing world said no to trade -- most economies
were protected -- but yes to development aid to close the gap. Then, in the 1980s and 1990s, we said, trade, not aid, was the route to prosperity.

Now there is a new attitude that says trade and aid. Despite the freest possible trade and investment regimes, there is still no way poverty can be eradicated without a transfer of resources from rich toward the poor. Both are necessary, and they are complementary.

In this regard, it is interesting to note the shift in attitudes after September 11, according to the World Economic Forum global opinion poll on globalization. Seventy-three percent of Italians are willing to pay 1 percent more in taxes to help the world's poor. Fifty-one percent are willing to do so in Great Britain, and 48 percent in Germany.

GV: Which forum will do more to reduce poverty on a global scale, the World Economic Forum (Davos) in New York or the World Social Forum -- the anti-Davos -- in Puerto Alegre, Brazil?

ZEDILLO: Both events are important because there is dialogue, discussion and debate on the same set of issues -- from a different standpoint, with different constituencies, all of whom have a stake. Valid ideas from both places should be debated and heeded.

(c) 2002, Asharq Al Awsat/Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services
For immediate release (Distributed 2/1/02)