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How to make globalization work

Engage the world in making policy, says Lord Christopher Patten

Christopher Patten brings his views of globalization across the pond.

If there is one thing the leaders of America and Europe should bear in mind in shaping foreign policy, it’s how much they need each other, according to Lord Christopher Patten, chancellor of Oxford and New Castle universities, who discussed the themes of his latest book, Cousins and Strangers: America, Britain and Europe in a New Century, at the Photonics Center last Thursday.

Patten’s expertise in European foreign policy was honed during the five years he served as European Commissioner for External Relations, from 1999 to 2004. Previously, he had represented Bath in Parliament and served as chairman of the Conservative Party and as the last British governor of Hong Kong, where in 1997 he oversaw the return of governance to China.
The professional politician, administrator, and historian also warned the audience at the event, sponsored by the Institute for Human Sciences, that Europe and America can no longer establish a global agenda and simply expect the world to go along with it. “There is no issue we can tackle if we don’t work with India and China,” he says, citing the need for agreement on such matters as nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and determining the best way to use the world’s commodities. Patten, who also wrote 1998’s East and West: China, Power, and the Future of Asia, said he hopes that U.S. foreign policy will move toward regarding the European Union not as a “super-sniper from the grandstand,” but as a “serious partner to help carry the burden of global leadership.”
When a member of the audience asked how Europe and America could possibly protect their jobs when the people of India are willing to work for $1 a day, Patten pointed to New England’s economic rebound after the dot-com bubble burst, and the power of a “knowledge-based economy.” Protecting low-wage jobs stifles innovation and will deny other parts of the world the benefits of globalization, he said.

Patten won an appreciative chuckle when he noted that amateur historians, “unlike the historians you have here [at BU], so many of whom I’ve noticed are British,” have a tendency to assign centuries to certain nations, such as calling the 19th century the British century, or saying that the 20th century belongs to America. But in the future, while “nation states will remain the focus of our loyalty and affection,” he said, the centuries must belong to all nations. “If we believe we can make the world a better place, it will be a better place.”