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Posted at 02:00 PM ET, 09/16/2011

The global power shift


Anyone who doubts the enormous shift in global power now under way should read World Bank President Robert Zoellick’s latest speech, given Wednesday at George Washington University. It’s sprinkled with facts and figures confirming massive changes. For example:

● On China’s dominating markets: China “is consuming over half of the world’s cement; almost half of the world’s iron ore, steel and pigs; a third of the world’s eggs. Today, China is the world’s biggest consumer of minerals such as copper, aluminum and nickel.”

● On new trade patterns: “In the 1990s, developing countries imported 15 percent of their merchandise from other developing countries. Today, it’s three times that amount.”

● On shifting economic growth: “Over the past 10 years, developing countries have grown nearly four times faster than developed, and that trajectory is expected to continue.”

Greater economic wealth and clout also translate into growing political power — though the relationship isn’t mechanical or entirely predictable. Zoellick is less clear on what that means for the post-World War II system of open trade and investment. But he does argue that the ongoing economic crisis has deeply damaged the prestige and authority of the United States and Europe in the eyes developing countries. There’s a “whiff of hypocrisy” to rich countries’ advice, he said.

“When (advanced) countries with large fiscal deficits preach fiscal discipline to poor countries -- what are they really saying?” Zoellick asked. The answer, he said, is obvious: “Do what I say, not what I do.”

By Robert Samuelson  |  02:00 PM ET, 09/16/2011

 
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