Day 3  |  22 September

SESSION 2:

Asia and the Future of Globalization: Business and Human Rights in Perspective

10:45-12:00 ICT

Background

In recent years, the pace and enthusiasm for economic integration has been tempered by a reassessment of the costs and benefits of globalization. Business leaders are far more cognizant of the operational risks posed by just-in-time production and longtail supply chains. Neo-liberal policy experts are far less confident that open markets will lead to stronger levels of international cooperation, respect for human rights and environmental stewardship. Transparency, resilience, and security are suddenly the leading features of a new chapter in global economic history. Yet, the implications for Asia, which has benefited enormously from globalization, are not well-understood.


In this moment, Business and Human Rights (BHR) champions are playing a larger role in shaping the direction of international trade and investment policy. Legislators, investors and consumers are joining advocates calling for greater respect for the environment, labor rights and land rights in global supply chains. But have BHR champions been fully cognizant of the costs their agenda imposes on Asian business, especially in the face of rising inflation, mass redundancies and a scarcity of essential goods in multiple regions? Or is the wider and deeper embrace of BHR principles the very thing that will drive new levels of growth, and save globalization, if indeed it is worth saving?


In this session, “Asia and the Future of Globalization: Business and Human Rights in Perspective,” speakers will assess the implications of responsible business practice in Asia’s supply chains. How might Asia be shaped—in both positive and negative terms—by new proposals from multiple markets limiting entry to products involving forced labor, deforestation risks or fast-fashion production techniques? What challenges, financial and otherwise, might environmental and human rights due diligence place on Asian businesses still reeling from COVID-19 lockdowns? How will a redesign of globalization be informed, if at all, by greater levels of respect for human rights and the environment, and what are the tradeoffs?

Objectives

The key objectives of this session are to:

  • Detail how trade and investment patterns have shifted in Asia in the last ten years, and the implications for Asia in terms of future growth, poverty reduction and technology and skills transfer

  • Provide views on the impact of BHR agenda on today’s reassessment of globalization; demonstrate how trade policy can act as a lever for greater human rights respect

  • Conclude with an assessment of the possible pathway forward for the BHR agenda in Asia, and the trade-offs of staying the current path

 

 

Guiding Questions

Panelists will participate in a dialogue and thus be afforded limited space for presentations. Instead, participants will reflect on the following questions but also react to more pointed remarks made by fellow participants, the moderator and the audience:

  • Why is globalization facing such strong headwinds, and what might current trends mean for Asia in terms of economic growth, job creation, poverty reduction, rates of innovation, and the enjoyment of human rights?

  • Can international trade and investment policy facilitate growth that is informed by human rights values, or is success unlikely given the intensity of current geopolitical and economic challenges?

  • What are the strengths, shortcomings and potential pitfalls of the current approach taken by champions of the BHR agenda in Asia? Will the BHR agenda lead to greater resilience and much needed transparency, or to heavier and more complicated regulatory burdens? In light of current economic challenges in the region does an accelerated or incremental approach make more sense?

 
Image by Andy Li