Perspectives

Themes to Watch January 2019: Davos, US-China, Brexit

Brunswick Geopolitical helps companies understand the complexities and risk in key markets around the world, enabling them to better anticipate, prepare for and react to significant geopolitical events that affect their businesses.

Our “Themes to Watch” looks at some of emerging global themes over the coming months. It includes contributions from Bob Zoellick, Pascal Lamy, George Yeo and Charles Powell, edited by Dominick Donald, former foreign affairs and defence editorial writer at The Times.

 

Themes to watch 

 Some years Davos delegates go home feeling sunny about the world; it would be surprising if 2019 is one of them. For one thing, 2018 ended with widespread gloom about the prospects for 2019 – not least among the pundits on whom busy executives often have to rely on for insights into the wider world. For another, major powers are represented by lower-profile delegations; the absence of Presidents Trump and Macron and Prime Minister May is noted, even if everyone understands that major domestic political issues rule out their attendance. The fact that all three are preoccupied by crises that seem to suggest cracks in the old order – the partial government shut-down, the gilets jaunes and Brexit respectively – seems to reinforce the significance of the leaders' absence. Even President Xi Jinping of China has stayed away – and he can often be relied on to turn up when other world leaders do not, if only to send the message that China is the power to be relied on.  

It is global economic prospects that cast the most immediate shadow. Indicators of a bigger-than-expected slowdown in Chinese GDP growth spark worries that underperformance is down to something structural, not just the muted consumer spending or investment flows stemming from concerns about a US-China trade war. The US Federal Reserve is also sending clear signals that it believes the US is facing its own slowdown this year. Factor in how the global economy would be affected if Washington and Beijing can't do a deal, and how markets might interpret likely events such as a rejection of President Trump's replacement for NAFTA, and delegates are right to be nervous. 

Sign up to read the full expert analysis on Davos, US-China and Brexit in this issue of Brunswick Geopolitical Themes to Watch.