SMT Perspectives and Prospects—Revisiting Globalization: Technology, Jobs, Trade

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In 2004, I wrote a column titled “Globalization: Technology, Jobs, Trade,” which was published in the July issue of SMT—Magazine. Amid the protracted and roller-coaster trade uncertainty between the U.S. and China, and the renewed debate on globalization, I thought a revisit on the topic was befitting. What has changed over the last 15 years? Where do we stand today? Is globalization undergoing a retreat or reverse course?

Globalization was mind-boggling; the more I examined the subject, the more I revealed its complexity and intricacy. Many punchlines were thrown around by various media organizations. But one thing was clear; we were facing a new world characterized by change, uncertainty, flexibility, choice, and opportunity. Today, we are facing yet another new world with no shortage of opinions, views, and positions. Nonetheless, some fundamental principles and primary underlying issues behind the technology, jobs, and trade remain the same.

For example, productivity and the competitiveness-driven environment continue to be relentless. For a given function, the productivity level continues to rise sharply, and the number of employees required to perform an equivalent function continues to decline. To produce more, with less manpower and lower cost, is every operation’s goal. The ever-increasing demand for innovation incessantly intensifies. The shortage of engineering talent and the inadequacy in the pipeline of engineering talent in the U.S. continues. The job market and the shift of the job market in nature, geography, and number on the global scale are profoundly in flux. Then, the “eternal” trade issue with China has moved to the front and center of inside-the-beltway debates, government policies, and business strategies.

Today’s new world is not only entrenched with trade issues but also driven by shiny, new technological megatrends—namely artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), 5G, and the associated infrastructure and sup-ply chain. The national unemployment rate reached 3.7%, the lowest since 1969, which is good news. Another major change in the global landscape during the last 15 years is that China became the largest exporter in 2013, replacing the United States.

To read this entire column, which appeared in the October 2019 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.



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