By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, March 7, 2020: The world today is much more integrated than it was a quarter century ago. Trans-oceanic air transport, jet airliners, Maglev trains, express highways have reduced distance and time for people. Container shipping and large-sized cargo aircraft and freezing plants have brought sea change in domain of logistics and supply chain. Internet has brought a revolution to the communication technology. Business is done through use of high-speed Internet.

Skype and WhatsApp have enabled people to do business seeing each other’s face giving them personal touch no more requiring people to travel for meetings. International video conferencing is replacing global or regional conclaves. With passing of each day as new technology replaces the old in the Information Technology sector, the global population get to interact more intimately than before.

Artificial intelligence, robotic, machine learning, 3 D printing, cloud computing and internet of things have entered global business having their consequences. Reskilling of existing personnel has become imperative and at the same time there is apprehension of redundancies in large scale in future years. This can be an opportunity for transition to new way of doing business and corporate governance.
The middle class is growing across the globe more prominently so in India, China and Indonesia. Aging population is also growing in Europe, North America and Japan. India and China have not escaped this demographic feature. At the same time young working population is also growing in India.

International banking and insurance business have spread across the world. Capital markets are getting integrated. Trade, business and commerce the worldwide are getting more and more interlinked corporate business houses looking for personnel with talent and skill have resorted to transnational hiring. People of different nationalities, religions, races, ethnic diversity languages and cultural differences are visible in most of the countries in varying proportion.

International organizations or institutions whether public or private have sprung up in every sector. From the United Nations and its specialized agencies (like ITU, IMO, ICAO, WIPO, WHO, FAO, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNEP, and ILO etc.), institutions like IMF and World Bank and WTO have been established under international multi-lateral treaties. International law and regulations have developed with International Court of Justice and the Hague Court of Arbitration for settlement of disputes. Simultaneously, there are other international bodies like IATA, Doctors Without Borders, and International Red Cross which have played big role in developing international codes, procedures and practices including ethics.

In addition, there have been growth of Groups of States like EU, Commonwealth of Nations, Arab League, Organization American States, Organization of African Unity, SADC, SARC, MURCOSUR, NAFTA, CAFTA, ASEAN, G 7, G 20 and BRICS.In the background of this there are certain trends in the global scenario. Brexit has taken place after long drawn process of negotiation between EU and UK following referendum accompanied by highly sensitive and high voltage political tension in Britain dividing the country. Fall out of this political phenomenon has deep economic consequences. This would lead to relocation of banking, insurance and financial institutions from London hitherto known as the financial capital of Europe. Need for renegotiations of trade and air transport agreements would follow.

There are many speculations relating to post-Brexit scenario. Whether Britain will try to bring economic cohesion in the Commonwealth of Nations or whether UK will carve out special trade arrangement with US ,or the English speaking countries UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will form an economic alliance are all being discussed.

After the election of President Trump ,US withdrew from the Paris Accord concerning global climate and environment, abandoned Trans-Pacific Trade deal involving the Pacific powers like Japan, Australia, NZ, and ASEAN Group and Latin countries , and rejected the nuclear deal with Iran which had been underwritten by UK, France, Germany, China ,Russia and Japan apart from USA followed by re-imposition of sanction on Iran.

Trump has raised wall on the Mexican border to prevent migrations from Latin countries. He has called for America for Americans, imposed restrictions on H1B visa affecting the Indian techies and generally restrictive about immigration of people of the Islamic countries. Doubts have been raised on the future of NATO with US demanding more of financial contributions from its members. US has reduced its military presence from the Middle East and Trump has electoral promise to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Trump has asked both Japan and South Korea to fund for the US military presence.

There was trade war between US and China for two years. In addition, it has imposed tariff on the Indian steel and aluminum and not spared France, Brazil and Argentina. Russia is under the sanction from EU after war with Ukraine. Russia is a part of OPEC and hence plays a role in determining global oil price along with Saudi Arabia. The war in Syria has not ended although the Bashar regime has made spectacular gains with the Russian military support and presence. Although the dreaded ISIS leader Al Baghdadi was killed, this terrorist outfit is regrouping and has possibly entered Afghanistan. Lone wolves are still active. Sri Lanka was a victim of its attack.

There is tension with refugees in Turkey and Europe. Turkey and Syria have uneasy relationship. The Kurdish minority seeking for separate statehood is another cause of tension. The oil rich Libya is witnessing internal armed turmoil. The Iranian backed Shite Houthis of Yemen in effective control of the country are locked up in war with Saudi Arabia. Iraq is under Shiite control with loyalty towards Iran. The recent riots in Iraq led by unemployed youth and disenchanted Sunnis caused instability in the country leading to resignation of Prime Minister. The situation got further aggravated with killing of the Iranian military General Qasem Soleimani close to the Ayatollah Khamenei by the US drone attack. This was followed by attack on US establishments in Iraq. Lebanon

partly controlled by Shite Nasrallah, the hero of Israeli and Lebanese conflict backed by Iran also saw riots caused by unemployed youth.
The Persian Gulf is under tension due to confrontation between US and Iran. Cargo ships are intercepted or detained. The Iranian cargo ship detained in Brazil by the pro-US government could only be released with judicial intervention. The Iranian ship was subjected to search and visitation in Gibraltar by the British authorities. Similarly, the British ship was detained in the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia and Iran conflict, many decades old is, not abating. There is tension between Qatar in one hand and Saudi Arabia and UAE on the other. Israel in the Middle East has hostile neighbours. Problems relating to Palestine remain unresolved.Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al Sabah in anarchic Somalia is causing instability in the region. Niger is oil rich and Niger is full of rich minerals. South Africa rich in resources has robust industrial infrastructure.

Repeated Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe have caused serious anxiety in the continent. Most of the countries in Europe have elected political parties to power with ultra-nationalistic and rightist approach. There is tension in Spain with Catalonia having threatened to secede. Scotland had an unsuccessful referendum for independence although the passion for independence has rekindled after Brexit. The recent Irish election has brought Sinn Fein to focus. This reminds the past tension in Northern Ireland.
Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant feelings are rising in Europe, US, Australia and New Zealand. Massacre in the mosques in Auckland brought diplomatic spat between Turkey and New Zealand.

In South America, Brazil after conviction of Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva and impeachment of Dilma Rousseff following scandals (called car wash) concerning Petrobas, Jair Bolsonaro, an ally of President Trump has come to power with pro-business rightist agenda although not supporter of global climate accord. His stand on Amazon forest has alienated France from Brazil. A trade deal of EU with MURCOSUR of which Brazil is a member is on hold. There was dramatic change of government in Bolivia whose President escaped to Mexico. Chile otherwise a stable economy went through a period of agitation ostensibly on the grounds of inequality and unemployment.China is the second largest economy, and by Purchasing Power Parity, China is a bigger economy than USA. Its military strength and economic heft have caused concern in USA and to some extent in other parts of the world particularly in Asia. Japan and South Korea have concern but at the same time have close business nexus. The ASEAN Group and China have a symbiotic relation in trade, commerce and business. Australia and China have close economic cooperation. China has firm grip in Africa, and it is entering Latin America. Its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative has many dimensions both economic and political.

Novel Corona virus has affected China’s economy. For how long it will take for China to come out of the crisis is unpredictable.
As it is the slowdown of the Chinese economy has greatly affected global economy further accentuated by the needless trade war. The pulsating US economy itself was affected by the Trump initiated trade war and hence there is a temporary reprieve.
US is no longer dependent upon oil from the Middle East although it continues to import from that source. Its shale oil has brought some stability to oil market.

The business of the world is affected by political developments in the countries and regions. Rise of hawkish political heavy weights, ultra-nationalism, xenophobia, religious tensions and the Islamic fundamentalism will have profound effect on the global business sentiments.
Climate issue will haunt the world for years to come. Rising inequality as shown by Oxfam is worrisome.
One is reminded of famous lines of Charles Dickens in the book “A Tale Two Cities “, it was the best of times, it is the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness ,it was the epoch of belief ,it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light and it was season of Darkness ,it was the spring of hope ,yet there is winter of despair ,…….”.
To sum up, there is everything before us and yet there is nothing before us.

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