08 January 2018 #Press
Despite President Trump’s America First philosophy, the UK’s bumbling (though still unclear) exit from the EU, or any number of other “glass half empty” stories that dominate the news, the reality for business generally is that life goes on and deals can and must be done.
Undoubtedly, certain important industries fear any new barrier to the international trade on which they have long built their business models, so often reliant on complex supply chains with multiple cross border product flows.
Damage to such industries does of course carry risk for some national economies and directly affected workers.
Nonetheless, there is a world of smaller, less affected enterprises across so many countries which already export, or want to find new export opportunities. These may sometimes be disrupters to existing global businesses, such as innovative technology which is changing so much of the business environment, regardless of political noise.
Media reporting often plays to fears and occasionally exaggerated alarm about what is happening to the world, while overall political unpredictability is at a high level and established businesses dislike uncertainty.
However, there is constant demand for skills, products, technologies, and finance to help sustainable growth and improve economic resilience.
More reporting of economic success stories from across the world would be a welcome new year gift to uplift gloomy western spirits.
This may also boost vital interest in exploiting the most vigorous markets and forming new business alliances. Smaller businesses may have the most to gain and little to lose by being more adventurous.
The big picture is of continued economic growth in many developing countries hungry for technologies and know how; of Asia being steadily transformed by Chinese trade expansion; and of an increasing young population in many developing countries who can now see and want to be part of greater economic opportunities.
It is of an immense requirement for global infrastructure needing experienced businesses and professionals; of a growing middle class across the world looking for access to aspirational products and services; and of most countries needing rapid development of smaller enterprises to diversify unbalanced economies and create long-term job opportunities.
The biggest threats to trade may turn out not to be political at all.
A fair working assumption is that political behaviour will lag behind technology development, which is now happening at a breathtaking pace.
Politicians, lawmakers, regulatory bodies, and many long-standing businesses are all challenged now by game-changing technologies that in some ways facilitate global trade, but in others disrupt existing trade assumptions and reduce or entirely displace supply chains.
It is a totally viable thesis that, while political games are playing out, ambitious entrepreneurs and adaptive enterprises will be shaping their strategies to a new interconnected world of trade opportunity.
It is critical to sustainable development across the world that trade grows, that developing countries join the party, and that new jobs are created faster than the robots destroy existing work.
It will be positive to increase focus on the fastest growing global markets, what they need, and what farsighted businesses can offer.
As the global centre of economic gravity moves progressively east, the winners in coming years will be businesses that seek out opportunities in new markets.
Whatever political leaders say and do, enterprise will follow the money and look for ventures and partners that help open doors into lucrative markets.
While money talks, trade is also about more than money.
Trade is a means to exchange culture and build alliances. People who do business together are less likely to tolerate disruptive conflict.
Global collaboration, to address the biggest threats to humanity and increasing displacement of people through climate, conflict or economic distress, needs much more shared trade and mutual awareness.
Enterprise is virtuous in all cultures and responsible trade shows the way to better lives for more people in more places.
A strong ecosystem, ideally driven by increased collaboration of public and private interests, will help smaller businesses build export markets, facilitate and reinforce their enterprise, enable shared future prosperity, and help alleviate the rising tide of inequality that otherwise threatens substantial social unrest and instability.
Fortunately, there is a lot of good news to brighten the turn of year, if we can just look beyond the fog of the old world.