World Chambers Congress

Fourtou stands up for the global economy

  • 1 June 2004

With less than a week to go before the opening of ICC's 35th World Congress in Marrakesh, ICC Chairman, Jean-René Fourtou has given an exclusive interview to Le Figaro Entreprises newspaper about the key themes of the congress.

Extracts of the interview appear below.

Q: Your congress has the title, “Standing up for the global economy” – isn’t globalization an irreversible process?

A: The world is hesitating. Hesitating between a policy of openness and progress, on the one hand, and closed borders and conservatism, on the other. Politicians react to this anxiousness by adopting protectionist measures, because they sense there is a feeling among their citizens that globalization is moving too quickly, causing too much change too soon and is destabilizing societies.
The facts, however, speak for themselves: increased trade leads to increased growth. The difficulty lies in managing the pace of change. Opponents of globalization argue that it only benefits the richest nations. Globalization is a little like medicine. If you take it, it’s good for you. But if you take too much of it, there are side effects.

Anti-globalization activists cannot see beyond this. That globalization solely benefits the rich is totally disproved by World Bank statistics. At our Congress in Marrakesh, we want to remind people, with figures in hand, that if the world is to experience the economic expansion that everyone aspires to, it has to accept free borders, open trade, investment, transfer of technology and population migration.

Q: But surely you admit that some countries do not benefit from globalization?

A: To properly benefit from – a nd participate in – the global economy, it is absolutely vital that a country has strict and accountable governance structures. Around thirty countries are completely excluded from the globalization process at the moment because they have yet to implement some very basic governance in their countries, which is essential to business investment. For instance, they do not provide foreign investment security, they do not have predictable and transparent legal systems, they are rife with corruption. In short, they have not managed to create an environment which is wholly conducive to, and nurtures, foreign investment.

Q: Don’t businesses have a responsibility to make the globalization process as smooth as possible?

A: Definitely, and at Marrakesh, I will be addressing them more so than governments. Businesses too must respect the values of strict and accountable governance and ethics. Global communications today are so efficient that the least whiff of scandal can have catastrophic consequences for a business.

I am amazed at the audacity of ICC’s founders nearly a century ago. They didn’t ask their governments for anything. They didn’t wait for governments to reconstruct the international trading system – they banded together, across the oceans, and set up ICC – this remarkable private initiative which exists to ensure the international economy runs as smoothly as possible. Today, businesses must continue to take the initiative, without waiting for governments or international authorities to impose unsuitable solutions.

Q: – With the upcoming G8 Summit in mind, ICC is using its World Congress in Marrakesh, (6-9 June) to make an appeal to George W. Bush. What are you asking from the American president?

A: The G8 Summit from 8 to 10 June in the U.S. will be held at the same time as the ICC Congress in Marrakesh. We are asking President Bush to reopen the Doha round of negotiations on international trade. Negotiations, which began in 2001 after the September 11 attacks, are at a crucial mid-point. Little headway has been made since the failure of the WTO talks in Cancun in September last year. These negotiations are important because the security of international investment and intellectual property are at stake. Furthering multilateralism is crucial for balanced international trade.