Bill Gates has seen first-hand the benefits of globalization, as the co-founder of Microsoft and a leader of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But he’s also watching the groundswell of populist opposition to open markets and collaboration among countries. He sees that opposition as “a huge concern,” and says the underlying issues warrant a close examination.
Gates addressed the topic this afternoon during an event in Vancouver, B.C., where leaders from the Seattle region and the Canadian province are talking about new ways to work together to create a “Cascadia Innovation Corridor” between the two regions. Without specifically mentioning Donald Trump or the U.S. presidential election, Gates said he has been surprised by the backlash against globalization.
Here’s what he had to say on the topic.
“Globalization has had these huge benefits of speeding up innovation and causing product prices to be far lower than they would be otherwise. We take that for granted, and other people see some of the drawbacks.”
“Of course you might be able to manage the displacements caused by globalization better than you do today. But the fact that people, net, see it as a bad thing — and that a vote like the Brexit vote or some other votes are a move to ‘Hey, we don’t like change, we want to set back the clock, we want to be more local in our thinking’ — that’s a huge concern.”
“The amazing things that can get done in areas like IT and health have all been predicated on continuing to be a totally global market, where the best ideas are shared and companies can work very, very broadly.”
“I do think we need to step back and say, are we doing enough in communities? Are people seeing these benefits? I’m still absorbing this, and thinking, ‘OK, what are the lessons that come out of it?’ because both Microsoft and my Foundation are really predicated on a huge amount of cooperation between all the different countries of the world and a pretty strong alignment on how we do things.”
Gates spoke at the event in a joint appearance with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “I wouldn’t be here as CEO of Microsoft if it was not for the democratizing force of Microsoft technology reaching me where I was growing up” in India, Nadella said. However, he said multinational companies increasingly need to ask themselves whether they are creating local employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.
For more from the talk, see GeekWire’s earlier live blog and video stream.