Globalization has been a force for good, but environmental and labour standards need stronger protection from unfettered trade, according to a US survey of 18 countries.
“It is clear that publics around the world support the growth of trade,” said Steven Kull, editor of WorldPublicOpinion.org, part of the University of Maryland, which organized the poll with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
“But it is also clear that many are looking for ways to soften its disruptive impact on the environment and jobs by including environmental and labour standards in trade agreements,” he said.
Support for such standards was particularly high in low-cost economies, such as China and India, flouting the widespread belief that their workers would prefer lax regulation to press home their competitive advantage, the survey said.
“It is possible that the requirement of higher standards is attractive because it generates outside pressure to improve working conditions in their countries,” it said.
Overall, pluralities in all of the countries plus the Palestinian territories that were covered by the poll said globalization had been “mostly good” for their economies and for living standards.
Dissent to that view was strongest in France, with 42% believing that trade liberalization and economic integration had been “mostly bad”, and in the United States (35%).
The highest levels of support for globalization were found in export-oriented economies, such as China (87%), South Korea (86%) and Israel (82%).
The findings could “strengthen the political will” for liberalization in arenas like the World Trade Organization, said Christopher Whitney, executive director for studies at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
There were more misgivings, however, about the environment, with 66% of French respondents and 49% of both American and South Korean ones believing that trade harms the natural world.
Strong majorities in China and India agreed that trade agreements should include environmental protections.
The survey interviewed nearly 23,000 respondents in total, drawn from Argentina, Armenia, Australia, China, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Ukraine and the US, plus the Palestinian territories