The Coronavirus is a Major Setback for Globalization

In 1999, when radical activists gathered in Seattle to protest the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Seattle, economists and political analysts generally agreed there was not much protesters could do to stop the wave of globalization that had been building up since the early 1990s. Many of the concerns that the anarchists and anti-globalization activists had in 1999 became a tragic reality: Over the next two decades, income inequality and the distribution of wealth grew out of control, and the global middle class experienced considerable downsizing.

To drive their point across, the Seattle anti-globalists engaged in civil disobedience, riots, and vandalism. Their opposition to the new direction capitalism would take was made clear, but never in their wildest dreams did they think that one day globalization would be wiped out by a devastating event such as the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

Something else the anti-globalists never expected was that the election of United States President Donald Trump would actually align with some of their ideology. The global trade war that Trump has waged against China over the last few years caused a major jolt of the global economy; moreover, his anti-immigration rhetoric had major anti-globalization undertones because he insists that he is putting the interests of American workers first by keeping the number of foreign job applicants down.

By the time the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, globalization had already become strained by Trump in the Americas and by Brexit in Europe. The international effort to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2 contagion has taken care of dismantling globalization, at least for the time being. Naturally, this is not what the anti-globalists expected as a trade-off; in fact, they are flabbergasted when they learn about how Trump has taken advantage of the pandemic to advance his anti-immigration policies.

As can be gleaned in this Wall Street Journal report, the closure of U.S. consulates around the world during the pandemic has prevented many skilled foreign workers to enter the country on H-1B visas. In cases when H-1B visa holders had to leave the U.S. in an emergency to be next to a dying loved one overseas, they have not been able to return to their jobs. The novel coronavirus has done more to curb the flow of illegal immigration to the U.S. than Trump’s failed border wall project or his “deportation force” have. Even though illegal border crossings at the southern border with Mexico were reduced by 47% in April 2020, Trump still went ahead with a moratorium on immigration for the same aforementioned reason: So that Americans could have first dibs at getting their jobs back whenever things return to normal.

For globalization to thrive, the world needs open borders, industrial output, economic productivity, foreign employment, and many other aspects that have been wiped out by COVID-19. The problem with this situation is that the negative elements of globalization, namely the income inequality and uneven wealth distribution, have not only remained but are bound to get worse in the near future.