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Don't condemn globalization, it's not all about the West: WEF's Schwab

Matthew Lloyd | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A rise in anti-establishment populism has been blamed on globalization but the founder of the World Economic Forum told CNBC that global trade, which has created hundreds of millions of job, should not be made a scapegoat

"We have to make globalization more fair," Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman of the WEF, said in an interview with CNBC. "But when we talk about globalization we should not just look at it just from a western perspective but from a global perspective.

"In the last 20-30 years globalization has been part of a lot of good things, particularly for the developing world, it has created hundreds of millions of jobs especially in Asia. So we should not condemn globalization. We should make it work better."

As world leaders, chief executives and bankers converge on the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos for the WEF's annual meeting, there are growing threats about the rise of populism, from Donald Trump's election as the next president of the United States to Britain's decision to leave the European Union.

While President-elect Trump campaigned on scrapping and renegotiating trade deals, there are concerns about the future of the post-war democratic order. And with more elections across Europe this year, Schwab says leaders need to listen to their people.

"You have to have your ear on the ground," Schwab said, adding you need to"address the root cause of problems that people have."

He went on to argue that globalization is not to blame for the rise in populism and it was in fact, the rise of technology.

"The key challenge is not so much globalization. It is actually, what I call the fourth industrial revolution. Because its technology which creates the major changes in our daily lives. It's technology that creates the fears. What we want to do is make the world much more aware. On the one hand of the opportunity of the new technology but on the other hand the risks and dangers we encounter."

Countering criticism that the WEF, and many of its wealthy participants, are out of touch with the vast majority of the people, Schwab pointed to an article he wrote for the New York Times in 1996, in which he warned about threats to the world order from global trade.

"Economic development has to be coupled with social responsibility," he said.

"Now we are maybe more aware this year about the need of coupling these two than ever before.

"We are living in a time of a lot of turmoil. We have many question marks related to the future. But that is exactly why people … we have a record participation come here to listen to each other, to have a dialogue, and to make sense out of what is happening. And I hope they will respond and they have to respond."

Schwab went on push back against the stereotype of the people who come to the annual meeting, often referred to as "Davos Man."

"I hate, let's say this cliché because there is not one Davos man or not one Davos woman," he told CNBC.

"Hopefully, there will be many more Davos women. There are 3,000, everybody has their own identity and so on. It is the whole essence of Davos that is to have different cultures, different backgrounds, different constituency – coming together and sharing one common objective. And the common objective, in the end, is to make this world a better place."

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