Globalization, Harmonization, and Realization

By Don A. Franco, DVM, MPH, DVPM, FPCVPH (honorary)

Editor’s Note – Dr. Don Franco previously served with the United States Department of Agriculture/Food Safety and Inspection Service; as vice president, Scientific Services, National Renderers Association; and as president, Animal Protein Producers Industry.

Human interaction and trade amongst people and nations has taken place for thousands of years. In fact, it has always existed, to varying degrees, thus the concept of globalization, relating to the process of international integration, widely promoted and touted for the past 30 years or so is not new.

Globalization, as an early objective, gained momentum in academic circles about 80 years ago to promote a new and refined vision of education to benefit the globe by assisting underdeveloped economies improve their educational capabilities and conform to the changing needs of their societies, helping achieve self-sufficiency in the process. This impetus helped to establish a core theme or infrastructure for communication with the goal of building a strong global network that could hopefully link people of the world into a single social system with the major intent to expand on human relations across countries and continents for mutual long-term benefits beyond the confines of education. This, interestingly, coincided around the same time with a gradual progressive goal toward free trade when in the 1930s United States President Franklin Roosevelt introduced a trade agreements program based on international negotiations known as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. This was later amended in 1934 by the Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act to help increase American exports during a period of depressed international trade and when many countries raised import tariffs. Therefore, issues of global trading are nothing new for the United States.

The advent of the twenty-first century and the evolution of electronic communications, exemplified by the Internet, that currently connect billions of people in new ways, just about guarantees that the globalization trend will continue to have a significant impact on communications, business, and trade with the potential for the formation of joint endeavors and multinational enterprises between nations. Properly planned and structured, the globalized concept can be dynamically innovative, help reduce trade barriers and other historical impediments, and serve to heighten opportunities for true economic integration and, ultimately, the functional evolution of a progressive single global market, amplifying equity.

Globalization, however, encompasses more than the sharing and unifying of ideas, information, and knowledge; the opening up of cultural divisions; and a core interest to industries, economics, and trade. There is a substantial amount of supporting evidence to demonstrate that globalization has been successful and economically beneficial to both developed and developing countries. Unfortunately, some underdeveloped economies have been unable to benefit as well as the advanced industrial nations because of the paucity of infrastructures to sustain economic growth and development. This apparent inequality is by no means unusual and takes place in just about every comparative facet of developed versus developing countries and will likely persist as a compelling challenge with or without globalization.

Wealth, however, has been created in the process of globalization, serving as the precursor of economic miracles that have taken place in China and India in recent years, providing a considerate path for many emerging economies like Brazil and South Africa to pursue. The other disparate imbalances for enhancing benefits and greater distribution of economic opportunities for developing countries can be addressed and corrected as globalization moves forward. Serious challenges will obviously persist; that is symptomatic of the complex world in which we live. Developing countries, however, must accept that they are responsible for their planned vision for the future, prosperity, and upward mobility, and should not depend on global actions and the influence of external forces and institutions as a substitute for their own good governance and domestic policies. Dependence has limits and flaws. Developed countries, nonetheless, must work within the framework of fairness and outreach and assist in more market liberalization that could contribute to the financial stability of developing economies through equity. Collaboration is an imperative to success and must be done in an atmosphere of mutual respect and market opportunities.

The future realistically dictates that globalization, as an economic and trading reality, is not going to disappear. It is too deeply established, entrenched, and accepted as a norm. Like every other “system,” there are going to be risks, but the challenge is to make the entire globe an instrument of opportunity that will work for and benefit all countries through inclusion and accommodation. This, doubtless, will require commitment, understanding, and the management of processes modified and adjusted to assure sustained success that will result in a stronger and more functional and transparent international trade infrastructure.

We can assume and accept the analogy that globalization is reality and a major construct of the new world order that has helped to “flatten” the world and, in the process, create a fair playing field for all in the future where countries, developed and developing, can compete on equal terms. This realizing transformation was provocatively amplified by Tom Friedman, New York Times global columnist, in his book The World is Flat. The theories expressed in the book fully characterize the stage and scene of how countries will relate to one another in the future. Friedman, additionally, intelligently highlighted the successes and discontents of globalization, suggesting that to succeed in the future we have “to run faster in order to stay in place.” The question emerges, how can countries help in assuring that globalization continues to contribute to new opportunities by marginalizing the dangers and challenges to the concept? A logical and reasoned proposal is the harmonization of regulations that historically have negatively impacted trade, economic growth, and development, which are the central foci of globalization. This can be approached with a clear mission to understand the transitions needed for developing countries to meet the criteria of industrialized countries by the establishment of strategic development objectives over a period of time. This can be accomplished through technical support and collaboration.

The future and success of globalization necessitates the applicability of the principles of harmonization. The word itself is a form of unified progression, meaning to bring into agreement, or a form of blending of objectives and vision for the common good. Whether or not harmonization is a pre-requisite to the success of globalization can be debated, but harmonization has its origin and philosophy in every aspect of globalization. It is inherent. Both concepts are compatible and complement each other. It is illogical to think that globalization can succeed without harmonization. It is parallel to a plane without a pilot. Since globalization has taken off as a mantra for economic sustainability and an expansion of world trade, regardless of the challenges, harmonization must become an integral component of the concept. This, at a minimum, will require “harmonizing” for uniformity an international partnership between regulatory agencies and the manufacturing industries, and a logical starting point could be in the realm of food safety policy, since food is a common necessity of every society and widely traded globally.

The efforts of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, created in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization to develop food standards, guidelines, and codes of practice to ensure consumer protection and fair trade practices by promoting coordination of food standards worldwide, could be described, unfortunately, as a study in bureaucratic inefficiency and marginal vision. Decisions were slow and associated with continuing debates for decades over rudimentary subjects that made the process impossible and frustrating. Currently, it seems as though long-standing obstacles will continue to preclude consensus, limiting hopes of progressive agendas to address existing or future needs. Every country is intent on protecting its inherent interests and, while supportive of Codex as a “guiding light” for providing progressive recommendations, resort and respond to parochial biases instead of what is normally construed to be for the global good. The realization affirms and validates that all policies and politics are local, heightened by protectionism, and they infringe and influence guidelines/recommendations instituted for a global agenda. The fact is that none of the fundamental trading objectives is an indictment of the attributes of globalization and harmonization. We live in a world, however, characterized by survival economics, and protectionism is symptomatic and central to that world. Countries, interestingly, that do not have access or are incapable of “playing” in a global marketplace are demonstratively worse off than those that are. Thus, while the world has never been perfect, the fact is that global trade will continue, even in the midst of obvious imperfections.

Globalization, then, remains the economic reality of today and the future. Harmonization will enhance the concept and level the playing field toward uniform standards to facilitate trade. The globalization of commerce will continue to increase over the years as both industries and countries look for new market opportunities throughout the world in recognition of this interdependence. It is the new world order that has become constant with the potential to contribute to greater prosperity for all, if we accept the postulate that the world is truly flat and can provide unlimited opportunities for future generations. The challenging realization is whether or not we are prepared to aspire together as a community of global traders and make a collective effort to promote globalization by destroying hurdles through harmonization that will permit free trade to benefit all. Barriers have never contributed to anything but constraints. Now is the time to eliminate senseless barriers that curtail the movement of goods and inhibit economic expansion, and permit free trade and the creation of a true global market to benefit all who are prepared to play by the rules. Globalization was a major factor in sustaining America’s economic stability and supremacy.

A closing thought: the North American rendering industry should celebrate its history of global expansion. Representatives of the industry touch all the major market centers of the world promoting the nutritional value of animal fats and proteins as significant supplements in rations for livestock, poultry, and pets.

The technical support staff of the industry has been actively involved in discussions and debates with officials of countries that North American renderers trade with on broad aspects/concepts of regulations that embrace both globalization and harmonization. While these efforts have contributed to an expansion of the global marketplace over the decades, sadly, the pain of realization illustrates that we still have a long way to travel. We have, therefore, no option but to continue to raise our voices to shape the future by a continuation of reasoned professionalism and intelligent discourse. I have predicted for years, using China as an example, that if that single country fully opens up its markets by dropping its current existing requirements, the North American rendering industry would be hard pressed to supply the potential demands. There is reason for hope. China is still dismantling its trade barriers, 25 years after its march on the global market, a period in which the country’s economy grew in a manner that startled the world of trade.

Globalization will never be utopia, but it is reality. Harmonization will open up opportunities to examine differences and seek resolutions. There are definite benefits to those who are committed to pursue global commercial opportunities, even in a world still fraught with many imperfections and frustrations.

October 2012 RENDER | back