Delivered in Plenary 25th April of the EP Latin American Conference in Valparaiso, Chile
Mr. President, Fellow Parliamentarians
As I drove down the avenue to my hotel in Vină on Sunday, I passed in rapid succession McDonalds, Dominos Pizza and Pizza Hut. As I switched on the TV in my hotel room I hit on the CNN news bulletin in a wholly familiar American accent.
It suddenly struck me that I had travelled 12,000 kms and I had never really left my home in central London where in the street outside my flat we have – you’ve guessed it – McDonalds, Dominos and Pizza Hut and, yes, I regularly watch the same newscaster from CNN on my cable TV. All of this has happened so quickly in the 15 years since my last visit to Chile and it is light years away from the experience that my great great grandfather must have gone through in coming here, who in the late 19th Century sailed between Scotland and Valparaiso, taking 6 weeks for the round trip and trading in Chilean saltpetre which was needed for the manufacture of gunpowder. Well, I’m pleased that the EU is now trading with Chile mainly fruit, wine and copper rather than an ingredient of gunpowder!
Globalisation brings enormous advantages to encouraging free trade as evidenced by the Free Trade Association of the Americas’ negotiations which will undoubtedly benefit your Region here of 800 million people and US dollars 11 trillion of GDP with enhanced growth if the effects prove to be anything like the success evidenced by NAFTA. I am pleased that it will be sensitive to labour, environmental and human rights concerns for the first time.
Instant telecommunications which are part of this process bring enormous advantages in giving access of the peoples of the world to information via Cable TV and Internet which effectively allows dynamic exchanges of ideas and solutions to problems which are common to every society at a price for the first time that the ordinary citizen can afford even in the developing world.
The internet is the great enemy of dictatorships and repression and a friend of democracy and makes censorship extremely difficult even in the undesirable areas like child pornography, extremist or terrorist political groups who can now unfortunately also communicate with each other instantly and globally. It also raises expectations, sometimes unrealistically, in the third world of the standards of living they see being enjoyed by the first world and this brings resent and also encourages mass migratory movements from the poor to richer countries, which bring their own problems of rootlessness, breakdown of social cohesion and intercommunal relations, not to mention a brain drain of abler peoples away from the developing world where they are needed to build-up their own societies.
Globalisation also threatens the sovereignty and self-determination of smaller independent nations with their own heritage and
culture as they become submerged under the universal economic forms of MTV pop music, Coca Cola and McDonalds’ hamburgers. It therefore promotes regional blocks like the EU, NAFTA and Mercosur. Nevertheless globalisation is a force which is inexorable and unstoppable. The benefits must be harnessed to promote human rights, fundamental freedoms and economic prosperity and mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples which hopefully will help prevent future wars and conflicts, as transparency and accountability of political leaders becomes more subject to scrutiny.
It is ironic that in this Forum the left wing delegates argue for national sovereignty and protectionism and reject free trade and political union and harmonisation. Some of their speeches sound like speeches made in the European Parliament by the far right parties who also fear free trade and globalisation because of the very real threats posed to national sovereignty.
I believe this debate is an interesting one and there is truth in many of the arguments I have heard today from both sides of the debate and I believe the jury is still out on the outcome, but I would urge delegates to come to terms with the fact that the Pandora’s box of globalisation has been opened and the genie can never be put back in the bottle again. We must find, in the political classes and the opinion formers of democratic societies, ways to harness the positive benefits and reduce and manage the downside risks to bring about a prosperous and free future for the peoples of our planet.