Berlin event previews G8-Summit
On May 24, GMF and the Alfred Herrhausen Society invited high-level representatives from the economic, scientific, and political communities to Berlin to discuss globalization and the ramifications of the G8's shift in focus to Africa, with special consideration for Asia's increasing influence on the African continent. Jörg Asmussen, Director-General of the German National and International Financial Markets and Monetary Policy Department, directly involved in the G8 preparations, opened the conference.
Jörg Asmussen, Director-General of the German National and International Financial Markets and Monetary Policy Department and directly involved in the G8 preparations, said, "It's important that we actively shape globalization. The growth of the world economy will not only benefit the Big Eight, but also the developing and newly industrializing countries." Asmussen added that, "World resources are finite. Economic policy, energy security and environmental protection are necessarily interwoven." He said globalization has thus far been in a phase of particular growth that demands increased reflection in relation to its distribution and form. "That's why the Federal Government has nominated two topics as part of the focus of this G8-Summit: Growth and the responsibility in the world, and Growth and responsibility in Africa:"
G8 Summit focusing in on Africa
The G8 focus on Africa is a concern which resonated positively with GMF Senior Transatlantic Fellow Jim Kolbe. "I see the African initiative of the Federal Government as very positive," he said. "It is very good and very correct that the G8 is engaging with Africa. From my previous experience, I've been somewhat cautious about excessive euphoria. It is not the case that, in particular in relation to Africa, a lot of money will help. However the new initiative, which focuses on good governance, sustainability, transparency and changing existing structures, is altogether very promising."
Africa was the focal point of the first panel's debate dealing with energy security, economic development and stability. The main takeaway was that Chinese engagement will channel large amounts of money to Africa. At the same time, the population will not profit sufficiently if there is no structural change in terms of resource trade which, in turn, would lead to a fairer social and political system in affected countries.
Accepting the increasing role of Asia
The general increase in the importance of Asia, especially China, is a fact with which the G8 must come to terms, a notion with which many of the panelists at the conference agreed. This acceptance is crucial if they wish to implement an effective energy security and environmental protection policy.
The second conference panel dealt with international investment, sovereignty, and protectionism. Panelists expressed that even if globalization leads to increased economic competitiveness, attempts at foreclosure will be of little promise. Even in the United States, only the usefulness of foreign investors is valued; they are welcomed conditionally, despite the fact that only one case involving foreign investment has ever lead to damages.
Globalization as a Problem?
Raphael Kaplinsky from Britain's Open University at Milton Keyes, outlined a more skeptical view of globalized markets. Even if globalization ultimately leads to worldwide economic growth, the OECD countries, as well as China, would experience increasing levels of unemployment. The resulting hopelessness would also be responsible for an increased belief in, "Magic Solutions," such as Christian and Islamic fundamentalism.
Problematic aspects, specifically in the form of an international copyright law based on the TRIPS treaty, were also discussed by the last panel. Anjan Das from the Confederation of Indian Industries, Jan-P. Hoffmann from Deutsche Bank Research, Joseph Straus from the Max Planck Institute, and the U.S. Trade Representative Christopher S. Wilson stressed the advantages of copyright law for newly industrializing countries. The question of reaching a balance between the interests of business and the demand for cheap medication in third world countries remained controversial. "The system," suggested Joseph Straus, "has to be more effective and rational. And not simply a copy of what is done in the United States, Japan, and Europe."
Public discussion lacking substantive issues
There is an opinion that the public discourse lacks substantive issues, in which Joseph Straus is not alone, particularly in regard to G8-Summit demonstrations and protests. However, the conference was miles away from the fundamental rejection of the G8-Summit and the condensed media reports as underlined by Wolfgang Nowak, Director of the Alfred Herrhausen Society, the International Forum of the Deutsche Bank. "I am most happy that we have here a conference which deals with substance," said Nowak. "The debate in the media has been centered on fences, dogs and arson attacks on cars. Substance rarely features. I am very satisfied with this controversial, though profound, substance-oriented discussion."