SINGAPORE (September 12, 2018) – In a new joint report, Carlos Gutierrez, Co-Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, and Peter Mandelson, Chair of Global Counsel, warn business leaders that in the current crisis in the international trading system, companies and investors will need to develop new tools to safely navigate and mitigate risks. They urge business leaders to become more effective in advocating for open trade and investment policies with their home governments and in developing and executing their own corporate foreign policies.
Gutierrez and Mandelson, two architects of the current global trading system, published “Navigating the Global Trading System Crisis: What Businesses Need to Know” in partnership with the Singapore Summit in advance of its annual conference of business and government leaders.
In this report, they chart the structural and political forces that have led to the current crisis of the global trading system, highlighting a confluence of factors – from the impact of globalization and technological change on lower-skilled manufacturing jobs in industrialized countries to China’s rise up the global value chain.
The authors note that while U.S. President Donald Trump is an embodiment and now a significant driver of the crisis, its roots reach back long before his election.
Considering these broad macro-challenges, the paper explores several trends that business leaders meeting in Singapore this coming weekend need to take into account in their strategic planning:
- Decreased U.S. Influence: The Trump administration’s policies and actions will likely result in further trade and investment diversification away from the U.S. The U.S. will likely remain on the side-lines as other countries move forward with preferential trading arrangements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. This means U.S. companies will be placed at a disadvantage in terms of market access and rule-setting.
- Continued U.S.-China Trade Tensions: There is little near-term prospect of the U.S. and China returning to the status quo ante. China is unlikely to make the fundamental changes to its economic policies that the Trump administration seeks. Businesses and investors should expect greater friction.
- World Trade Organization (WTO) in Decline: While the U.S. is unlikely to withdraw from the WTO, the organization will likely continue to deteriorate as a forum for trade liberalization and rule-making and enforcement. As a result, economies will continue to pursue bilateral and regional trade arrangements, leading to the further balkanization of trade. Harmonization of rules and standards in new areas of trade, such as cross-border data flows and digital trade, is highly unlikely.
- Greater Scrutiny of Inbound Investment: Businesses should expect further tightening of oversight mechanisms for foreign investment in the U.S. and Europe, with China as the primary target. Political and media scrutiny of sensitive investments will likely heighten, which could impact both costs and reputations of businesses.
To respond to these trends, Gutierrez and Mandelson make a range of suggestions to business leaders and policymakers. They note that governments with an interest in an open, rules-based international trading system need to prioritize efforts to prevent its collapse, with the alternative being a greater sense of chaos and heightened risk of large-scale trade conflict becoming a permanent feature of the global trading system. They also encourage business leaders to develop and execute their own “foreign policies” as well as to engage more actively with their home governments to build support for their interests, including maintaining an open, rules-based trading system.
The full pdf version of the report is available for download here.
A podcast with Peter Mandelson about global trade wars can be listened here.
Notes to editors
For more information please contact:
Mary Clare Rigali
The Singapore Summit, supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board, GIC, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Temasek, is organised to bring together business and thought leaders from around the world to discuss future-oriented topics in business, economics, finance and geopolitics. The by-invitation event is attended by Chairmen, Chief Executive Officers and prominent thinkers from Asia and globally who engage in discussions and exchange perspectives on opportunities and challenges that could impact regional and global growth, prosperity and stability. More information about the Singapore Summit can be found at www.singaporesummit.sg
Carlos Gutierrez is chair of Albright Stonebridge Group. He served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 2005-2009 and is the former CEO of Kellogg Company. He currently serves as Chair of the U.S. National Foreign Trade Council.
Albright Stonebridge Group helps clients understand and successfully navigate the economic, political, and social landscape in international markets. A partner from strategy development through execution, ASG brings insights that pave the way for informed decision-making and effective engagement. ASG's worldwide team of commercial diplomats has served clients in more than 110 countries. albrightstonebridge.com
Peter Mandelson is Co-founder and Chairman of Global Counsel and former European Trade Commissioner and British First Secretary of State. As Trade Commissioner between 2004 and 2008, he negotiated trade agreements with many countries and led European negotiations in the WTO Doha World Trade Round.
Global Counsel advises international investors and businesses on political and regulatory risks in markets around the world. We help investors and companies in a wide range of sectors to anticipate how government policies and regulations will impact on their investment plan or business strategy and to develop and implement responses to these challenges. Global Counsel has offices in London, Brussels and Singapore. global-counsel.co.uk