EU supply chain executives expect trade pivot from US to Asia, reveals survey

Ti’s Chief Executive, Professor John Manners-Bell spoke recently at the BDP International Supply Chain Summit in Antwerp. During the conference, the audience of senior supply chain executives from across Europe were asked a number of timely questions related to the global trading environment. The results made for interesting reading.

One of the most insightful questions related to whether the delegates thought that the United States would agree a trade deal first with the UK or the EU, or indeed with neither. Of the almost 100 replies a significant majority (57%) thought that the UK would be able to develop a trade deal with the US ahead of attempts by the EU. Just 11% thought that the EU would be able to agree a deal and a third believed that neither would be able to.

If correct, the results provide a boost for those who believe that Brexit will result in closer trading links with the rest of the world. However it shows that there is little optimism that the stalled EU/US trade deal – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – will be concluded. There has been much opposition on both sides of the Atlantic to the deal, even predating the election of Donald Trump.

Delegates were also asked which of four countries (Japan, China, USA and Costa Rica) the EU would agree a deal with first. The largest proportion of delegates thought that Japan would be the first country to sign an agreement (43%) followed by China (36%) with only 17% stating USA and 5% Costa Rica. There is certainly a body of thought in the European Commission that trade now needs to pivot towards Asia given the Trump administration’s protectionist rhetoric. However there is also frustration at the lack of progress in negotiations with Japan and there is significant mistrust of China’s trade agenda. Trade relations between the EU and China over the years have been difficult, to say the least.

Executives at the conference were further asked to provide their views on whether the US ran the risk of “De-Globalization.” Overwhelmingly they thought the country did with just under 70% agreeing although 20% thought it was too early to tell. The majority (63%) also thought it was too early to tell whether the positions taken by the Trump administration would result in a change in their companies’ trade patterns although almost a quarter said that it was already having an impact.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Professor Manners-Bell said, ‘The poll provided an interesting insight into the views of European supply chain executives on the effect which the political upheaval in the UK and United States is having on trade. Clearly they believe that negotiations between the EU and the US are unlikely to develop into a comprehensive free trade agreement with post-Brexit UK achieving this first. They believe that a pivot in EU trade relations towards Asia is more likely, even though deals with markets such as China could be equally problematic.’

Source: Transport Intelligence, March 21, 2017