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Globalisation loses shine

Cancun, Sept. 12: The best view of Cancun is from a boat on the sea or on the lagoon, between which the venue of the World Trade Organisation’s fifth ministerial conference is sandwiched.

The diminishing power of the setting sun is offset by the glow of lights that steadily come up on hotels along a 20-km coastal stretch, which is the hub of visitors to this city.

But as dusk settles, Cancun’s skyline is anything but aglow. An economist from Argentina says the haze over Cancun in the setting sun is a reflection of what has happened to globalisation, which descended on the new millennium like a guiding light to lead the world into a new era of well-being.

Into merely the fourth year of the new millennium, as 146 commerce ministers meet here to salvage the global trading system from disaster, globalisation is no longer the guiding light for many of those gathered here.

My friend from Argentina argues that the guiding light of globalisation, which promised to chart a new path for humanity, has turned into a flickering oil lamp instead.

Iraq helped do that. The chilling message from Osama bin Laden, before the second anniversary of 9/11, added to it. Two Mexican navy destroyers anchored just off the WTO’s meeting venue are a reminder of how things have changed since the WTO was launched with great fanfare. Cancun is a city that is not used to sights such navy destroyers off its coast.

Listen to Jagdish Bhagwati, the eminent economics professor of Indian birth at Columbia University, for instance. Bhagwati used to be an unabashed advocate of globalisation and the free market. “The process of free market is becoming a sham, the ultimate objective being the capture, reshaping and distortion of the WTO in the image of American lobbying interests,” Bhagwati wrote in the Financial Times in the run up to the Cancun conclave.

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