The steam has gone out of globalisation
A new pattern of world commerce is becoming clearer—as are its costs
Jan 24th 2019
WHEN AMERICA took a protectionist(n.[C]贸易保护主义者) turn two years ago, it provoked(v.[T] to cause a reaction or feeling, especially a sudden one) dark warnings about the miseries of the 1930s. Today those ominous(adj. making you feel that something bad is going to happen) predictions look misplaced(v[T] to lose something for a short time by putting it in the wrong place). Yes, China is slowing. And, yes, Western firms exposed to China, such as Apple, have been clobbered(v[T]to affect or punish someone or something badly, especially by making them lose money). But in 2018 global growth was decent, unemployment fell and profits rose. In November President Donald Trump signed a trade pact(n.[C]条约,协定,协议) with Mexico and Canada. If talks over the next month lead to a deal with Xi Jinping, relieved markets will conclude that the trade war is about political theatre and squeezing a few concessions from China, not detonating(v[T]to explode or to make something explode) global commerce.
Such complacency(n.[U]a feeling of satisfaction with a situation or with what you have achieved, so that you stop trying to improve or change things – used to show disapproval) is mistaken. Today’s trade tensions are compounding(v[T]to make a difficult situation worse by adding more problems) a shift that has been under way since the financial crisis in 2008-09. As we explain, cross-border investment, trade, bank loans and supply chains have all been shrinking or stagnating(v[I]to stop developing or making progress) relative to world GDP (see Briefing ). Globalisation has given way to a new era of sluggishness(n.[U]moving or reacting more slowly than normal). Adapting a term coined(v[T] to invent a new word or expression, especially one that many people start to use) by a Dutch writer, we call it “slowbalisation”.
The golden age of globalisation, in 1990-2010, was something to behold(v[T]to see or to look at something – sometimes used humorously; be a sight/joy/pleasure etc to behold). Commerce soared as the cost of shifting goods in ships and planes fell, phone calls got cheaper, tariffs were cut and the financial system liberalised. International activity went gangbusters, as firms set up around the world, investors roamed(v[T,I]to walk or travel, usually for a long time, with no clear purpose or direction; [+ over/around/about etc]) and consumers shopped in supermarkets with enough choice to impress Phileas Fogg.