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Editorial: Global Trade Flows Rebound

Chennai, 22 Feb 2023:

With the international trade flows rebounding as fast as they fell, It was unfounded that globalisation was in reverse during the pandemic.

The Russian, and Ukraine conflict has its impact on supply chain interruptions globally, and inflationary pressures and sanctions are now hitting food prices, the cost of living, and energy costs due to the reduced supply of oil and gas.

Due to this, there has been an increase in the protectionism of global trading system, and companies have begun reshoring and regionalising operations.

But this does not prove to be the beginning of the end for globalisation. On the other hand, moving to manufacture closer to home markets, and reconfiguring supply chains around the end customer is protecting the flow of freight and creating resilience.

Digitalisation helped improve the ability to export to newer markets, and have greater control over the cost of shipping and the efficiency of supply chains.

According to a recent report, based on a survey of 3,000 respondents from North America, South America, Europe the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific, it is clear that efficiency and cost are now being balanced by the importance of resilient supply chains to navigate emerging geopolitical uncertainties.

Geopolitics is driving them to reconfigure trade operations, said a majority of the respondents. Many of these companies around the world are reconfiguring their supply chains through strategies that enhance resilience and minimise transport costs such as friend-shoring, nearshoring, and reshoring. 20% of respondents said they are switching to regional suppliers – an increase of 8% from last year’s report. While 15% said they are shifting manufacturing and suppliers from foreign markets to their companies’ local market – a 10% increase in reshoring from the previous report.

These regionalisation strategies are redefining the state of global supply chains and potentially global economic growth. The Economist Intelligence Unit estimates global export volumes to grow by 1.2% in 2023. That may seem like modest growth, but it is still a positive sign for global trade.

The findings show that the biggest drivers of that export growth will be growing demand in key markets and expansion of operations in new markets as cited by 25% and 20% of executives respectively.

While 10% of executives surveyed in the Trade in Transition report believe that the fragmentation of the world into trade blocs will be the most limiting factor on trade growth over the next two years, consolidating the modest export growth we see globally is vital.

We must continue to drive that growth to support companies, trade, and billions of people in both developed markets and the global south. There are key strategies that companies are following to maximise this reglobalised reality.

Many of them view that implementing innovative technology and increased digitalisation are fundamental to achieving greater resilience in regionalised supply chains.

For example, 30% of executives surveyed in the report said that digital tools for inventory management are the most effective supply-side resilience strategy. Promisingly, 35% of executives said they have started using advanced technologies in their wider value chain compared with 31% last year.

Overall, 29% of companies say they are planning to adopt digital technologies to enhance their supply chain operations.

The survey also found that Just-in-Case inventory strategies, which are often managed digitally, still prevail among respondents. Companies are increasing inventory buffers with companies holding 10.1 weeks of inventories on average, compared with 8.9 weeks in 2021.

Increasing inventories may well be costlier, but it is a longer-term strategy that appears to offset potentially greater losses.

Globalisation is the key to supporting economic growth for everyone. The World Bank has reported that over 1 billion people have moved out of poverty because of economic growth fuelled by global trade.

Reshoring and nearshoring supply chain strategies are attractive and resilient in this reglobalised reality and to consolidate economic recovery, it is imperative that companies maximise technology and inventory strategies to keep trade growing and their businesses healthy.

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