The Great Lockdown and Global Trade

Global supply chains have weathered the pandemic intact, and the deep recession has not unleashed a wave of protectionism. That is good for global trade, and probably for foreign direct investment, too, and suggests that predictions of globalization’s demise were premature.

BRUSSELS – Trade is recovering robustly alongside the upticks in growth in major economies. This good news deserves more attention. Less than 12 months ago, many observers were predicting an end to globalization. The pandemic disrupted supply chains, and governments, suddenly confronted with the resulting vulnerabilities and dependencies, encouraged “reshoring” production of critical goods.

Today, the outlook is much brighter. There is little indication of a sustained movement away from global supply chains. And many governments have realized that trade is more of an opportunity than a threat to national sovereignty. As a result, the World Trade Organization expects the volume of global trade to increase by 8% in 2021, more than offsetting last year’s 5.3% decline.

True, foreign direct investment (FDI) still lags, having plummeted 42% in 2020. Europe actually recorded a negative flow. But the pandemic’s differential impact on trade and investment is not surprising. Transporting goods around the world requires little physical human interaction. Giant cranes, often remotely operated, load and unload containers, and supertankers pump oil ashore.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading and receive unfettered access to all content, subscribe now.



Unlock additional commentaries for FREE by registering.