Even though the Covid-19 pandemic is still ravaging the world and the World Health Organization (WHO) investigation team is still searching for raw data on early Covid-19 cases in Wuhan, the increasing use of various vaccines including those researched on and developed by China and Russia gives hope that this global catastrophe will be contained in the near future. We can finally anticipate the arrival of a post-pandemic era.
But the world has reported over 114 million Covid-19 cases and over 2.5 million deaths. The casualties incurred is comparable to that of a world war. It is hard to accurately predict how the world will ultimately look like in the post-pandemic era. The general trend would be globalisation regression, less international trust and cooperation, and the exacerbation of economic inequality.
The current fights over the Covid-19 vaccine hint at the points raised above. The EU and Canada — both of whom have emphasised international cooperation in the past — no longer care about their international image: Canada purchased multiple times the amount of vaccines it needed to inoculate its population, and is still fighting for more despite its initial international commitment to support the poorer countries. The EU, on the other hand, rushed to set up vaccine export controls, inviting harsh criticism from the WHO.
... the EU, consisting of 27 member states, was able to maintain highly-coordinated internal and external policies, and stemmed the tide of populism.
A union and a federation
One exception to such returns to a “zero-sum game” is the greater internal coherence of the EU after going through the stress test of Covid-19. In the US, with the added impact of the pandemic, populism is on the rise and society has been torn apart; there was even a constitutional crisis following the siege of the US Capitol. In contrast, the EU, consisting of 27 member states, was able to maintain highly-coordinated internal and external policies, and stemmed the tide of populism.
While they were all badly hit by the pandemic, the EU member states went beyond sharing medical resources; they agreed on a joint-debt recovery fund for the first time, greatly boosting internal unity. And although the EU has been receiving a lot of flak recently for not administering the vaccines fast enough, this was due to ensuring that a strict schedule was followed in distributing the limited supply of vaccines to all EU member states according to population size. Politically speaking, it was a necessary move to strengthen internal unity.
In fact, as numerous pundits have pointed out, a post-Brexit EU has proved to be stronger rather than weaker.
In fact, as numerous pundits have pointed out, a post-Brexit EU has proved to be stronger rather than weaker. As said in a New York Times article, having exited from the EU, the UK must still abide by the rules and regulations of the EU for most of its economic and trade activities but has lost the right to participate in the formulation of these rules. In fact, the protracted Brexit negotiations have highlighted the importance of the EU to its member states such that the initial clamours for exiting from the EU in France, Italy, and other countries have virtually disappeared.
The democratic and social systems of the US are facing unprecedented challenges from populism. Neoliberal economic policies implemented by the US and the UK since the era of US President Ronald Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher are increasingly questioned, especially with regards to its role in widening the gap between the rich and poor.
The EU shows its strengths
In contrast, while the EU’s systems and policies emphasising government regulation and social welfare have relatively slowed economic development in EU member states, there has been greater stability and social equity as well. Especially in the area of environmental and climate sustainability, the EU’s moral authority surpasses that of Washington’s, which may be why the Joe Biden administration has decided that the US will return to the Paris Agreement on climate change.
... many of the EU’s strict rules and regulations concerning environmental protection and labour rights are becoming the global benchmark to the extent that The Economist magazine described the current state of globalisation as resembling “Europeanisation”...
The EU is also a leader in assisting third world countries. Statistics from 2017 show that the total stock of investment of various EU countries in Africa is 5.3 times that of the US’s and 5.8 times that of China’s. Undoubtedly, in the face of an increasing number of illegal immigrants coming to EU member states from Africa, this is in the interest of the EU. This can be compared with Uncle Sam’s border wall that is constantly growing in height, but still unable to keep out the influx of refugees from many Latin American countries seeking a better life.
Additionally, as an enormous market with a high standard of living, EU consumption has surpassed US consumption in many areas. The number of Facebook users in the EU is an example. Thus, many of the EU’s strict rules and regulations concerning environmental protection and labour rights are becoming the global benchmark to the extent that The Economist magazine described the current state of globalisation as resembling “Europeanisation”, leaving us with much to think about.
Related: War of words over efficacy and safety of vaccines: Will China win? | Vaccine diplomacy: China and India push ahead to supply vaccines to developing countries | Securing its place in the world economic order: The EU can't afford to wait for the US