• Globalization was already under attack before COVID struck.
  • The pandemic has posed new questions about nationalism and co-operation.
  • Experts with a global outlook from US, China, India debate the future.

At the start of 2020, the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report warned that a retreat from multilateralism threatened our ability to take action on the world's most pressing risks.

The emergence of COVID-19 and the global response to it is now testing if that is true.

In the latest Great Reset Dialogue, the Forum brought together experts from around the globe to consider the future of multilateralism - cooperation between countries - as the world recovers from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

The latest Great Reset podcast has the highlights:

And you can see the full discussion here:

Here are some of the key quotes from the panellists:

Michael Froman, Vice-Chairman and President, Strategic Growth, Mastercard, USA

Michael Froman, US Trade Representative is captured at the 'Rebooting Global Trade' session at the Annual Meeting 2015 of the World Economic Forum at Congress Centre in Davos, January 23, 2015. WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/swiss-image.ch/Photo Moritz Hager
Michael Froman
Image: World Economic Forum

On nationalism - we are seeing it pop up all over the place - and there are legitimate concerns that countries have around wanting to make sure, for example, that privacy of individuals is protected. But sometimes those spill over or are conflated with nationalist solutions, and there are ways certainly of addressing legitimate concerns while still maintaining the connectivity to the rest of the world that is so important.

The one thing that COVID underscores is how our individual wellbeing is very much tied to the wellbeing of people halfway around the world and we therefore need to make sure that we have got processes in place for sharing data, sharing information while protecting privacy, it’s just one example.

Countries going to have national clouds, national internets - balkanisation of technology, decoupling - that’s only going to damage our efforts to address the collective challenges that we face.

Lubna S. Olayan, Chair of the Executive Committee, Olayan Financing Group, Saudi Arabia

Lubna S. Olayan Chief Executive Officer and Deputy Chairperson Olayan Financing Company speaking during the Session: A Compact for Responsible Business Leadership at the Annual Meeting 2017 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 18, 2017.Copyright by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell
Lubna Olayan
Image: World Economic Forum

[Citing the report The $10 Trillion Case for Open Trade by HSBC and Boston Consulting Group:] It showed that the world could gain 5-6 trillion dollars of trade volume [and] 8-10 trillion of GDP growth, if, and only if, we embrace an open and fair trading system, we cut the red tape and refrain from restrictive measures.

This shows how important it is for us collectively to focus on improving trade and increasing supply chains between countries. One of the main things to make sure that the multilateral system of trade exists [...] There is consensus that there should be WTO reform.

Alessandra Galloni, Global Managing Editor, Reuters

Alessandra Galloni, Global News Editor, Thomson Reuters, Canada capture during the Session: Implementing Strategies for Inclusive Growth at the Annual Meeting 2018 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 23, 2018.Copyright by World Economic Forum / Sikarin Thanachaiary
Alessandra Galloni
Image: World Economic Forum

[On the US presidential election] The first thing that any new president would have to do is try to heal the nation … There are many reasons the US will remain inwardly focused ultimately […] Domestic stability and restoration of trust in the workings of government are going to be the most important agenda item come January.

The biggest area of broad continuation would be the tough stance against China which has defined the Trump administration’s foreign policy [...] Whether you are going to have Biden or Trump in the White House come January, the US is not going to relent on China, and China knows that.

[...] The policy of ‘America First’ - it was coined this way by Trump but it wasn’t really a Trumpian invention, it’s likely to continue, I think, in some form. The US has made clear that it doesn’t want to be the 'policeman of the world' any more and I think the financial crisis of 2008 cemented this among many Americans and led the way potentially for Trump.

[...] The key difference, if there were to be a Biden administration, the US would approach [things] with a more multilateral approach.

risks report wef
The links between the world's biggest risks.
Image: World Economic Forum

Jin Keyu, Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom

Jin Keyu, Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom; Young Global Leader, speaking in the Recharging International Trade session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 21 January. Congress Centre – Aspen 2. Copyright by World Economic Forum/Sandra Blaser
Jin Keyu
Image: World Economic Forum

During the pandemic and the global fight to overcome this great challenge, I think China has intended to play a greater role. There are lots of collaborations between China and a host of countries, whether it’s about critical equipment, medical collaboration, clinical experience-sharing […]

If we’re talking about another financial crisis caused by the pandemic, China will have to play a very big role, not only as an anchor of demand but also potentially an anchor of liquidity especially for emerging markets and developing countries. As China’s economy recovers ahead of everybody else, we’ll have to play a much more positive role in the financial sector as well.

Samir Saran, President, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), India

Samir Saran, President, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), India speaking during the Session: “A New Architecture for Cyber-Cooperation“ at the Annual Meeting 2019 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 24, 2018. Congress Centre – Aspen 2Copyright by World Economic Forum / Christian Clavadetscher
Samir Saran
Image: World Economic Forum

I sense you will see the relative decline of the US as an attractive moment for many to align far more closely to the US than they were earlier willing to. So, a US in relative decline is a far more attractive proposition for India to get into partnerships with, to manage an assertive, expansive and growing China.

[...] Even if there is a decoupling, or retrenchment against globalisation it is going to be complicated and messy. Technology partnerships are going to be very different from geographical partnerships, and will be very different from economic partnerships. You are going to see a period of coalitions of convenience - the term I normally use is ‘Limited Purpose Partnerships = LPPs’ that are going to dominate the landscape over the next decade.

Jargon buster: a guide to some of the terms used in the Dialogue

D10: a potentially expanded G20.

B20: The Business Twenty is the voice of the private sector to the G20; within which is the B20 Saudi Arabia Trade & Investment Taskforce chaired by Lubna Olayan.

Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence: an initiative bringing together countries to pursue "responsible development and use of AI in a spirit of respect for human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation and economic growth".

Clean Network, the Trump administration’s invitation to "freedom loving countries" to come together to achieve technology safe from “authoritarian malign actors”.

Belt and Road initiative: China’s programme of infrastructure investments around the world.

Listen to The Great Reset's sister podcasts World Vs Virus, about the global pandemic, and Meet the Leader, about the world's most interesting changemakers,' here.