The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned new barriers at breathtaking speed. Closed borders, travel bans, paralyzed supply chains, and export restrictions have prompted many to ask whether globalization itself might fall victim to the coronavirus. In fact, globalization was already in decline well before the outbreak, having reached its peak before the 2008 global financial crisis and having never recovered since then. The pandemic will certainly highlight the risks inherent in overdependence on global supply chains, prompt a renationalization of production, and put stress on the notion of international interdependence. The likely result is an acceleration of changes that have long been in motion toward a new, different, and more limited form of globalization.
The worldwide interconnectedness of goods, services, capital, people, data, and ideas has produced undeniable benefits. But during this pandemic, the risks of dependency have fully entered the public consciousness. For U.S. consumers, the first visible sign came when virus-shuttered factories in China prompted delays in Apple’s delivery of iPhones, and continued as other firms reported interruptions. When the pandemic spread in the United States, Americans learned that 72 percent of the facilities producing pharmaceutical ingredients for U.S. consumption are located abroad—mostly in the European Union, India and China. The share is reported to be as high as 97 percent for antibiotics. Then liberal, globally engaged countries such as France and Germany not only closed their borders to travelers but barred the export of face masks, even to friendly nations. (They have since lifted the bans, but the shock remains.) When every country suddenly fights for itself, the idea of international interdependence appears worth rethinking, to say the least.
Read the full article in Foreign Policy.
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