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April 26, 2007

World Public Favors Globalization and Trade but Wants to Protect Environment and Jobs

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a roundtable discussion to present the results of the fifth in a series of reports based on a poll of worldwide opinion on key global issues. The report was devoted to globalization and trade. The meeting brought together citizens, members of leading think tanks, analysts, and media representatives.

ACNIS director of research Stepan Safarian delivered opening remarks. “Armenia, just like the rest of the world, is not immune from the effects of globalization,” he said. “Having already recognized the positive results of globalization, Armenian society is now seeking protection from its adverse consequences: issues of environment, working conditions, and job security.” ACNIS analyst Syuzanna Barseghian then presented survey results.

Majorities around the world believe economic globalization and international trade benefit national economies, companies, and consumers. But many think trade harms the environment and threatens jobs and want to mitigate these effects with environmental and labor standards.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and WorldPublicOpinion.org, in cooperation with polling organizations around the world, conducted the survey in countries representing 56 percent of the world’s population: China, India, the United States, Indonesia, France, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, Poland, Iran, Mexico, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Argentina, Peru, Israel, Armenia—and the Palestinian territories.

This is the fifth in a series of reports based on the global poll’s findings that analyze international attitudes on key issues. Not all questions were asked in all countries.

Support for globalization is remarkably strong throughout the world. Seventeen countries plus the Palestinian territories were asked if “globalization, especially increasing connections of our economy with others around the world, is mostly good or mostly bad” for their country. In every case positive answers outweigh negative ones.

“These findings clearly show that publics in both the developed and developing worlds view globalization and international trade as net positive forces,” says Christopher Whitney, executive director for studies at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “This may strengthen the political will to further deepen trade through market liberalization.”

The highest levels of support are found in countries with export-oriented economies: China (87%), South Korea (86%) and Israel (82%). In the United States, 60 percent think globalization is mostly good and 35 percent call it mostly bad.

There is an even stronger consensus around trade’s positive impact on national economies. Respondents in 14 countries were asked whether trade was good or bad for their economy. In all of them, majorities reply that it is good. The highest levels of approval are in China (88%), Israel (88%), South Korea (79%), and Thailand (79%). The highest negative views, though still held by minorities, are found in the United States (42%), France (34%), Mexico (27%) and India (27%).

Majorities in nearly all of the countries polled also consider trade good for their country’s companies, consumers and their standard of living.

But respondents around the world express concern about the effect of trade on the environment. In four countries, the idea that trade is bad for the environment is the most common view: France (66% bad, 29% good), the United States (49% bad, 45% good), Argentina (46% bad, 27% good), and Russia (44% bad, 25% good). Opinion is divided in Armenia (36% bad, 37% good), Mexico (41% bad, 41% good), and South Korea (49% bad, 47% good).

One way to mitigate the potentially negative impact of trade on the environment is to require minimum environmental standards as part of trade agreements. Large majorities in all 10 countries asked—ranging between 60 percent and 93 percent—say that trade agreements should include “minimum standards for protection of the environment.” Those in favor include two of the world’s largest developing economies: China and India. The Chinese favor environmental protections by 85 percent to 8 percent and the Indians endorse them by 60 percent to 28 percent.

There is also concern about the effect of trade on employment, especially in more developed countries. Eighty percent of French respondents believe trade has a negative impact on job security in their country and 73 percent think it is also bad for the creation of jobs there. In the United States, 67 percent consider trade harmful for U.S. workers’ job security and 60 percent call it detrimental for job creation.

One way to allay concerns about job losses in developed countries is to require trade agreements to include minimum standards on working conditions, thus avoiding a “race to the bottom” in search of lower costs abroad. Respondents in developed countries, not surprisingly, overwhelmingly support including such labor standards in international trade agreements, including nine out of ten respondents in the United States (93%), Israel (91%), Argentina (89%), and Poland (88%).

But adding labor protections to trade agreements also receives strong support in many less developed countries that are known for low-cost labor markets. In China, 84 percent favor them as do majorities in Mexico (67%), India (56%) and the Philippines (55%).

This is contrary to the widespread assumption that laborers in developing countries would oppose the imposition of higher standards because they desire the competitive advantages derived from lower labor costs. It is possible that the requirement of higher standards is attractive because it generates outside pressure to improve working conditions in their countries.

“It is clear is that publics around the world support the growth of trade,” said Steven Kull, editor of WorldPublicOpinion.org. “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 labor standards in trade agreements.”

For details, please see www.thechicagocouncil.org or www.worldpublicopinion.org. WorldPublicOpinion.org is a publication of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. For the Armenian version, visit www.acnis.am.


Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2006, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, democratic development, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am ; or visit www.acnis.am.

Related Links

The Armenian version of the press release:

Armenian version

Full Report (PDF-format, 246 KBytes)

Questionnaire ( PDF-format, 157 KBytes)

Methodology/Research Partners ( PDF-format, 95 KBytes)

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