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Adapting to the New Globalization

BERKELEY – Around the world, countries are rethinking the terms of engagement in global trade. This is not all bad; in fact, acknowledgement of globalization’s disruptive effects on millions of advanced-economy workers is long overdue. But new trade policies must be based on a clear-eyed understanding of how globalization is evolving, not on a backward-looking vision based on the last 30 years.

Globalization has done the world a lot of good. Research from the McKinsey Global Institute shows that, thanks to global flows of goods, services, finance, data, and people, world GDP is more than 10% higher – some $7.8 trillion in 2014 alone – than it would have been had economies remained closed.

More interconnected countries capture the largest share of this added value. For example, the United States, which ranks third among 195 countries on MGI’s Connectedness Index, has done rather well. Emerging-market economies have also reaped major gains, using export-oriented industrialization as a springboard for rapid growth.

Yet, even as globalization has narrowed inequality among countries, it has aggravated income inequality within them. From 1998 to 2008, the middle class in advanced economies experienced no income growth, while incomes soared by nearly 70% for those at the top of the global income distribution. Top earners in the US, accounting for half of the global top 1%, reaped a significant share of globalization’s benefits.