The backlash against immigration is particularly visible in Europe. In Britain, the new coalition government has promised to reduce the number of immigrants from hundreds of thousands a year to tens of thousands. International banks and multinational companies are already complaining that their businesses are being badly affected. Over the past year anti-immigration parties have made breakthroughs in the Netherlands and Sweden – and a book lambasting the cultural effects of immigration has become a huge bestseller in Germany. In the US, the populist Tea Party movement has increased the pressure to crack down on illegal immigration from Mexico.
The re-regulation of capital movements is also moving up the international agenda, amid talk of a “global currency war”. As all the world’s major powers seek to export their way out of economic trouble, so tensions have grown. America complains that China is deliberately undervaluing its currency to maintain a vast trade surplus that is contributing to US unemployment. The Chinese retort that the US is printing money in an effort to drive down the dollar. Questions about the future of the euro have raised the spectre that capital controls might one day have to be reimposed within Europe, as part of a managed effort to break up the single currency. On a more minor, but practical level, some emerging markets – most notably Brazil – imposed controls on inflows of “hot money” last year, to prevent their currencies being boosted to hopelessly uncompetitive levels. Since a new global compact on currencies is unlikely in 2011, this trend is likely to gather momentum.
I know of many countries that will argue that they weren’t really part of globalization anyway (at least in the sense that it is described above), and that the role they play – as sources of primary resources – will remain largely unchanged, even if there were to be a relative retreat of ‘globalization’.