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Why Do Regions Matter?

The Globalization Myth: Why Regions Matter sets the case for regionalization over the conventional idea of globalization. Companies and people trading have transformed the global economy for the last four decades. Still, O’Neil states that economic dynamics require more localized activity between neighbours. The author introduced the case of three leading global manufacturing and supply chain hubs: Europe, Asia and North America, which all have different advantages in terms of natural resources, labour, and capital, but most significantly, institutions that have brought nations together to support economic development. 

According to O’Neil, regions matter to remain competitive in the global economy because they provide a platform for the specialized production and distribution of goods and services. Moreover, when regions are well-coordinated and well-supported, this helps reduce costs, enhance innovation, and improve manufacturing processes, which are critical drivers of competitiveness. Thus, regional economies’ development leads to job creation, attracts foreign investment, and boosts economic prosperity. 

Why Laura chose this book:
Shannon O’Neil is a well-respected leading thinker who always provides an optimistic vision for American politics. O’Neil’s policy recommendations encourage greater unity and understanding between nations and foster dialogue and collaboration.

When O’Neil announced the launch of her new book, she challenged the commonly held globalization belief. Instead, she suggested that regions play a significant role in shaping the global economic and relations landscape. The author promised a comprehensive analysis of the challenges of globalization and opportunities of regionalization, particularly concerning political shifts, production and supply chains. 

So what?
As Canada’s #1 trade partner, the United States plays a significant role in expanding our domain in the global marketplace. O’Neil suggests that the United States needs to deepen its integration with its neighbours, Canada and Mexico, to foster innovation, enhance resilience and compete against Asia’s expansive reach. In other words, embracing regional ties for all three nations is ‘the way’ to overcome future global disruptions, and Canada needs to be ready for it too. Canada and the United States share a long land border and one of the strongest trading relations. Working together at the regional level with the US and Mexico can lead to developing stronger, more resilient supply chains and creating more economic and social opportunities. 

Our individual takes:

Julia: This is an interesting read that challenges traditional views of the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of globalization. Dr. O’Neill presents compelling data from  Europe, North America and Asia, to illustrate how regionalization and strong economic ties have been fostered across these regions. Places where regionalization has been strong  have seen increased levels of economic development, policy integration, and innovation. This effect opens up the conversation about the potential of regionalization in addressing current challenges such as environmental regulations, improving job creation and knowledge-transfer that promotes  innovation within and across borders.  

Laura: While I enjoyed it, I found the book missing an explanation in terms of practically how she sees Canada and Mexico being a partner to the U.S. – crucial for them to see their neighours as helpful – but what are the vehicles for encouraging that connectivity and partnerships. She just stops short of providing the natural next step of the discussion, which is what to do with this information from a policymakers perspective? Perhaps that’s in her next book? Also, given that she is a Latin American scholar, I was surprised to see so little mention of Latin America and am curious as to how that fits into her model (whether regional integration is a solution for them to pursue or what the role of that region is relative to the North American model). 

Nadine: I found the premise of this book – and her ideas on regionalism –  to be very intuitively presented and it lends itself well to unpacking some of the assumptions we might subconsciously make when thinking about ‘globalization.’ She did a fabulous job establishing her thesis and breaking it down into each of the major trading regions, Europe, Asia, and North America, through the subsequent chapters. My favourite takeaway is the concept of the ‘globalization penalty,’ a term that McKinsey coined and Dr. O’Neill uses to underpin the book’s explanation of the contours of corporate logic behind which markets to expand into and why/why not. 

Learn more about author Shannon K. O’Neil.

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