Globalisation has been in existence for several centuries and its origins can be traced back to ancient times when cultures from around the world began to trade with each other, the most notable example of this being the Silk Road. Since then, globalisation has evolved into a complex form characterised by economic, cultural and political influences. In recent times, it has faced some major challenges and shifts, leading to debates about its future. So is it really in decline or merely undergoing a transformation?
Ever since it established its roots in ancient trade, globalisation has grown in popularity and influence. During the 15th and 16th centuries, European explorers sailed to other continents to discover and establish new trade routes, marking a significant expansion in global commerce. Later, the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century, further expansion through colonialism and the post world war II era all saw a push for greater global economic cooperation, helping to facilitate the movement of goods around the world.
More recently, technological advancements during the latter half of the 20th century and early 21st century have significantly increased the pace and scale of globalisation though better transportation, communication and technical infrastructure, resulting in a world more connected than ever before.
Geopolitical tensions between major economies have resulted in trade disputes and protectionist measures, causing a re-evaluation of trade relationships. A rise in nationalism and regionalisation have both led to a higher focus on domestic priorities. This has been partly due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which brought about difficulties in global supply chains and raised the need to become more self-sufficient in critical sectors.
Climate change and the pressures to meet environmental targets and reduce carbon emissions have also had an impact on global trade. Here, the focus on sustainability has caused a shift in the way businesses and organisations operate in order to gain green credentials. Technological advancements such as automation and digitisation have also allowed companies to rethink their global strategies and explore more local solutions.
There is much speculation and theory regarding this subject. Some believe that despite the challenges, globalisation will continue with the aid of increased international cooperation, new technologies and the pursuit of economic opportunities. Others believe it may become more fragmented and regionalised as supply chains are re-ordered to reduce dependency on foreign supplies, with sustainability and fair-trade measures placing pressure on companies to source locally, and a rise in nationalism turning focus away from global trade.
Due to the complex nature of globalisation and the number of factors that influence it, including those that are unforeseen as was the case with COVID-19, it is difficult to predict what the future holds. What is certain, however, is the ability countries and international institutions have to address shared challenges in order to help determine the future for global trade.
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