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Global turbulence: The case for caution
The fact that ongoing global events continue to raise concerns across the business world was the lead topic at GTR’s Commodities 2019 conference in Geneva, where the GTPA argued the case for caution in the face of uncertainty and disruption.
Whether observing events from a macro perspective or more granularly from a country or industry-based perspective, the disruption and uncertainty we are experiencing in the global economic and political environment is making it increasingly difficult for businesses to plan and invest for the future.
THE MACRO ENVIRONMENT
The case for caution is a simple one, and it begins with the macro environment.
The US-China trade war is its defining feature at the moment. The conflict is hardening into a political and ideological battle that runs far deeper than trade balances, signalling that US-China economic integration has reached its political limit. Decoupling is well under way in areas like technology which, given the complexities and intractable nature of the underlying issues, is difficult to envisage being reversed.
More broadly, we are witnessing the globalisation of nationalism and protectionism, leaving businesses to navigate the inherent risks this creates. At its extremes, this could result in the end of globalisation as we have come to know it, and perhaps the end or a dramatic change in the rules-based order businesses have become accustomed to operating in.
An age of economic conflict and competition is being ushered in that will likely be defined by a return of multipolarity and spheres of influence in the world order and accompanied by profound socio-cultural transformations.
Rather than enlarging the global economic pie, countries are rushing to secure their own slice. Politics are trumping national interests; It’s party over country, short term gain for long term pain.
Collectively, this economic, political and social re-ordering has real economic implications for countries and the companies that operate within them. This means geopolitics very much has to be considered alongside all trade decisions in this era, whether you are a commodities trader, a manufacturer moving goods around the world, or a service provider moving sensitive data across borders.
In short, trade and politics are married now, and divorce is not an option.