High oil prices are slowing down globalisation
When I was studying international management at Audencia, we talked about how high oil prices could slow down globalization and that we may go toward glocalization.
It seems it was quite a correct reasoning as according to a most interesting article from the New York Times, it is already occurring because of current oil prices and other factors.
There is a direct link with global warming : a lessened globalization would mean less miles traveled by planes and boats, and thus decreasing emissions.
According to the article :
(…) The world economy has become so integrated that shoppers find relatively few T-shirts and sneakers in Wal-Mart and Target carrying a “Made in the U.S.A.” label. But globalization may be losing some of the inexorable economic power it had for much of the past quarter-century, even as it faces fresh challenges as a political ideology.
Cheap oil, the lubricant of quick, inexpensive transportation links across the world, may not return anytime soon, upsetting the logic of diffuse global supply chains that treat geography as a footnote in the pursuit of lower wages.
Rising concern about global warming, the reaction against lost jobs in rich countries, worries about food safety and security, and the collapse of world trade talks in Geneva last week also signal that political and environmental concerns may make the calculus of globalization far more complex.
(…) Many economists argue that globalization will not shift into reverse even if oil prices continue their rising trend. But many see evidence that companies looking to keep prices low will have to move some production closer to consumers.
Globe-spanning supply chains — Brazilian iron ore turned into Chinese steel used to make washing machines shipped to Long Beach, Calif., and then trucked to appliance stores in Chicago — make less sense today than they did a few years ago.
(…) A barrel sold for $125 on Friday, compared with lows of $10 a decade ago. “If prices stay at these levels, that could lead to some significant rearrangement of production, among sectors and countries,” said C. Fred Bergsten, author of “The United States and the World Economy” and director of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, in Washington.
The cost of shipping a 40-foot container from Shanghai to the United States has risen to $8,000, compared with $3,000 early in the decade, according to a recent study of transportation costs. Big container ships, the pack mules of the 21st-century economy, have shaved their top speed by nearly 20 percent to save on fuel costs, substantially slowing shipping times.
The study, published in May by the Canadian investment bank CIBC World Markets, calculates that the recent surge in shipping costs is on average the equivalent of a 9 percent tariff on trade. “The cost of moving goods, not the cost of tariffs, is the largest barrier to global trade today,” the report concluded, and as a result “has effectively offset all the trade liberalization efforts of the last three decades.” The spike in shipping costs comes at a moment when concern about the environmental impact of globalization is also growing.
(…) Last week, efforts to complete what is known as the Doha round of trade talks collapsed in acrimony, dealing a serious blow to tariff reduction.
As economists and business executives well know, shipping costs are only one factor in determining the flow of international trade. When companies decide where to invest in a new factory or from whom to buy a product, they also take into account exchange rates, consumer confidence, labor costs, government regulations and the availability of skilled managers.
(…) What may be coming to an end are price-driven oddities like chicken and fish crossing the ocean from the Western Hemisphere to be filleted and packaged in Asia not to be consumed there, but to be shipped back across the Pacific again.
(…) Soaring transportation costs also have an impact on food, from bananas to salmon. Higher shipping rates could eventually transform some items now found in the typical middle-class pantry into luxuries and further promote the so-called local food movement popular in many American and European cities.
(…) Global companies like General Electric, DuPont, Alcoa and Procter & Gamble are beginning to respond to the simultaneous increases in shipping and environmental costs with green policies meant to reduce both fuel consumption and carbon emissions. That pressure is likely to increase as both manufacturers and retailers seek ways to tighten the global supply chain.
“Being green is in their best interests not so much in making money as saving money,” said Gary Yohe, an environmental economist at Wesleyan University. “Green companies are likely to be a permanent trend, as these vulnerabilities continue, but it’s going to take a long time for all this to settle down.”
(…) One likely outcome if transportation rates stay high, economists said, would be a strengthening of the neighborhood effect. Instead of seeking supplies wherever they can be bought most cheaply, regardless of location, and outsourcing the assembly of products all over the world, manufacturers would instead concentrate on performing those activities as close to home as possible.