“At the risk of me sounding a bit too controversial… I'm going to extend a thought to your listeners,” says Andrew Blasi, director at Crowell & Moring International, on the latest episode of the Thomas Industry Update Podcast. “I'm going to say the era of global free trade and goods and services is coming to an end. The era of global free trade is coming to an end.”
In an insightful podcast conversation with host Tony Uphoff, president and CEO of Thomas, Blasi, who guides the development and management of large-scale, global partnerships with a focus on international government affairs, regulatory policy, and foreign policy matters, discusses his thoughts on the future of global trade and how industrial businesses can prepare their companies for the imminent shifts toward fragmented globalization.
The Future of Global Free Trade
As the era of global free trade approaches an imminent end, Blasi explains, this will pave the way for a new trade system to materialize.
“A global values trade system is about to emerge,” he says. “Whether we're talking about worker and human rights considerations, the environmental impact, good governance, or the implication of such practices on the manufacturing of goods or in the services realm, which is especially important. Let's think about things like data, privacy, secondary uses of data, the role of new technologies — all of these will continue to grow significantly in influencing nation-state decision-making on trade.”
Not every country or trade participant will approach these values in the same ways, however. While some countries will prioritize worker rights, sustainability, and reputable leadership, he explains, others may lean in the opposite direction. Business leaders must be aware of these shifts and select their partnerships or future associations with care.
Setting Your Business Up for Success
Data-driven decision-making is a core theme on the Thomas Industry Update Podcast; the impact of quality data on overarching business success is growing at such an increasingly rapid pace that it’s quickly becoming a key consideration for business leaders.
“Companies should do a better job collecting and leveraging data as they seek to shape U.S. and global trade policy. That's been going to become so important, leveraging good data,” Blasi recommends. “Companies should also prioritize sustainable business practices and strategies over quick wins. I know quick wins are enticing for businesses, but aligning your practices globally will really help to address increased scrutiny in our supply chains over time.”
Does a New Administration Mean a New Approach to Global Trade?
While there may now be a new administration in the White House, Blasi quells listeners' concerns that new leadership means immediate and substantial changes to international trade policy.
“It's doubtful that businesses should expect things to change this month to next month and for uncertainty to perhaps be as high as what we might have been reaccustomed to over the past few years,” he explains. “I would expect trade policy to develop more in a glacial sense, a more moderated nature, compared to what we've seen in the last administration. We always tend to focus on the present, but we might remember more than four years ago, trade policy didn't change all that much.”