Globalization Essay, Research Paper
World players – It is hard to appreciate how much power lies with the world’s transnational corporations (or multinationals, if you prefer). By their sheer size they have become major world players: sales of Japan’s Itochu Corporation exceed the gross domestic product (GDP) of Austria, while those of Mitsui and General Motors exceed the GDP of all sub-Saharan Africa combined. TNCs now control two thirds of all world trade and 80 per cent of foreign investment. BIG business.
Economic lifeblood? – Some argue that TNCs, as the ‘lifeblood of the global economy’, are of particular importance to people in developing countries. The reality is very different. TNCs employ only three per cent of the world’s labour force – and less than half of those employed are in the South. Where they are employed, the scramble by governments to attract TNC investment has resulted in a ‘race to the bottom’ in working conditions, with the rights of working people sacrificed in order to create the ‘most attractive’ investment environment. And as TNCs use their immense purchasing power to take over local markets, local firms are commonly swept aside.
No human rights – This freedom to act without regard for social responsibility has made TNCs the champions of ‘free’ trade, opponents of any regulation of their activities worldwide. Nowhere is this more evident than in their lack of respect for human rights. Oil giant Shell has admitted supplying weapons for use by Nigeria’s security forces against protestors in Ogoniland, just as BP has openly funded military terror squads in Colombia for years. In West Papua, Freeport presses ahead with mining while the Indonesian military deals with local protestors incensed at the destruction of their land.
Ecoterror – The same applies to TNCs’ environmental record – destruction of whole ecosystems by mining and oil companies, the thousands killed in disasters such as Bhopal, and just the ongoing, everyday pollution by companies for which ‘going green’ is merely a public relations pose. Why did the Kyoto summit fail to come up with meaningful targets on climate change? Because the powerful members of the Global Climate Coalition – themselves responsible for half of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions – mounted a multi-million dollar campaign to persuade the US government to back business as usual.
Hopes of regulation – Some people worry that TNCs have in fact grown too powerful for national governments to control. The governments of the industrialised North, however, are only too pleased to help out. In 1992 the UN had to abandon 16 years’ work on an international code of conduct for TNCs – because of concerted opposition from the governments of USA, Germany, Britain and Japan. Similarly, governments of the rich North continue to push for more overseas investment rights for TNCs, paying little heed to the urgent protests coming from the South. It is now down to ordinary individuals to watch over big business – the good news is that however powerful TNCs may be, they’re still afraid of public pressure.