Stanley Hartt, Chairman, Salomon Smith Barney Canada Inc.
Robert Greenhill, President, Bombardier International
Stephen Probyn, President and CEO of Probyn & Company
A. Ian Gillespie, President & CEO, Export Development Corporation
MODERATOR: Gerald Ross, Dean, Faculty of Management, McGill University
Synopsis by Melanie Martin
In a panel discussion that inspired a passionate, lively debate, the Friday evening presentation illustrated how the debate on globalization has become polarized. On the one hand, there were the members of the panel who defended globalization and free trade. On the other hand, there were the questions from the floor that countered traditional economic beliefs. The cleavages between these two positions quite accurately reflects the stalemate in public policy and global regulation discussions.
The panel presented a unified approach to globalization arguing that free trade and the liberalization of markets is a positive sum game that results in prosperity for both developed and developing countries. It is believed that the opening of markets leads to the opening of minds and societies and is thus a precursor for the democratization process. In simple economic terms, everyone gains when societies specialize in the production of the good in which they hold a comparative advantage. Indeed, Canada's current quality of life and our prosperity was founded on our ability to trade with the rest of the world. The business leaders believed that Canada needs to remain competitive in the global economy and that the only way to ensure this is to be adaptable, aggressive and willing to take risks.
According to the panel, globalization is not evil, it is simply a word that reflects the inalterable state of the world today where market forces reign supreme. While trade liberalization does create winners and losers, it is not by its nature innately amoral. Changes in the composition of manufacturing and productive output will leave some people disadvantaged; however, new opportunities will arise that will cause others to prosper. Society must deal with those who are negatively affected by these shifts with compassion. In this regard, the panel believed that corporations must have a social conscience. It was stressed that this notion of corporate social responsibility is not simply a public relations gimmick, but an integral component of modern corporate strategy.
However, many delegates from the floor took offence to the position adopted by the panel. They questioned why prosperity was simply measured in economic terms and expressed dismay over the growing income gap between rich and poor. The floor pressed the panel to explain why there are abuses of human rights in export processing zones as well as why child labour and sweat shops are still viewed as efficient tools of production. Delegates were concerned about the power being granted to corporations due to their transnational status and the magnitude of their profits. The insufficiency of public debate over the establishment of international trade regulations and the lack of open judicial trade dispute mechanisms were also addressed. Finally, delegates posed questions as to what the corporations thought of Canada's lagging environmental standards.
The panel's answers to the many pointed questions from the floor mirrored the positions they articulated in their opening statements. In the name of prosperity, globalization and free trade are tools that when used correctly and compassionately can theoretically benefit all of humanity.
Proceedings of the conference will be posted in due course. Audiotapes are available from Audio Archives & Duplicators Inc. at 905.889.6555 ext. 22, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Synopsis by: Melanie Martin