Two thirds of logistics industry leaders expect a global recession in 2020, new research from Ti reveals


  • Annual survey conducted by Transport Intelligence (Ti) reveals high degree of uncertainty in the logistics industry
  • Downward pressure on global trade volumes, uncertain growth prospects and the ongoing trade war between the US and China are driving this belief
  • Lack of diversification, domestic instability and failure to fix weak institutions top the list of emerging market vulnerabilities
  • The bullishness that characterised the emerging market conversation for the last decade has been replaced by uncertainty as trade barriers and protectionism rise.

10th February 2020, Bath, UK – New research from Ti reveals that the increase in protectionism and trade barriers throughout the global economy has profoundly reduced optimism for economic growth amongst those in the logistics industry. An annual survey conducted by Ti for the Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index 2020 found that nearly two thirds (64%) of logistics industry professionals expect a global recession in 2020.

The results come as part of a wider survey which highlights both a growing sense of unease at prospects for growth in the year ahead, but also a clear acknowledgement that select markets stand to benefit from the turmoil.

The results come as the future of the global trading system is under more scrutiny than at any point in at least three decades. One fifth (19.7%) of those surveyed see additional trade barriers as the most important inhibitor of emerging market trade growth. In addition, SMEs are expected to be another victim. Some 47% of those surveyed said SMEs would be most severely affected by a rise in restrictive trade policies, with trade bureaucracy and wider instability the most significant inhibitors of SME growth prospects.

There are positives to be found, however. Survey results – alongside rankings from the data-driven Index which measures 50 of the world’s most promising emerging logistics markets against a range of key variables – show emerging markets can still grow amongst the turmoil. Within the Index, emerging markets that developed and exploited structural or tactical advantages have performed well. China and India top the Index as a result of significant scale advantages, while Middle Eastern markets including the UAE and Saudi Arabia have further strengthened business environments to attract growth and investment.

A number of markets also weathered political and social unrest, structural problems, and even international sanctions in some cases, without losing much ground in the Index. These include Turkey, Russia, Chile, Thailand, Brazil, South Africa, Lebanon, Algeria and Bolivia. Egypt, despite anti-government protests, actually gained six spots in the 2020 Index and showed improvement in the domestic and international logistics opportunities and business fundamentals indices.

There will be winners from the US-China trade war too – of those surveyed who had taken the decision to relocate operations from China as a result of the trade war, 48% cited Vietnam and India as the most likely investment destinations. Mexico and Cambodia were the lowest-rated relocation options amongst survey respondents.

Nick Bailey, Ti’s Head of Research and the report’s lead author commented, “Throughout the 2020 Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index, results show that a potent mix of social, political and economic headwinds are creating deep uncertainty amongst those in the logistics industry. This year, solid fundamentals, regulatory coherence and an openness to trade are highly rewarded by both the data-driven Index and survey respondents. Markets that have so far failed to reform and create the right conditions to participate in the next phase of global growth should see these results as a warning sign, particularly if survey respondents’ prediction of an upcoming global recession prove correct.”

Ti CEO, Professor John Manners-Bell, said “Despite the uncertainty, opportunities have never been so good for emerging market MSMEs. Digital trading platforms which are being developed will allow them to access consumers in global markets. However, in order for this to happen, emerging markets need to embrace open trade policies, digitisation, address customs delays and corruption, invest in transport and communications infrastructure and allow international logistics providers market access. As this iteration of the Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index makes clear, emerging markets are consistently being constrained by the rise in trade barriers, holding back investment and destroying economic value.”

Download the Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index

About the Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index 2020

For the past 11 years, Ti has worked with Agility to compile the Emerging Markets Logistics Index. The Index assesses which emerging markets offer the best logistics opportunities through three lenses:

  • A data-based index which ranks 50 of the world’s most promising emerging logistics markets against a range of key variables
  • A survey of over 750 logistics executives
  • An examination of the largest and fastest-growing emerging market air and sea trade lanes

The methodology examines three key areas for logistics market development:

  • Domestic Logistics Opportunities
  • International Logistics Opportunities
  • Business Fundamentals

About Transport Intelligence (Ti)

Transport Intelligence (Ti) is one of the world’s leading providers of expert research and analysis dedicated to the global logistics industry. Utilising the expertise of professionals with many years of experience in the mail, express and logistics industries, Transport Intelligence has developed a range of market-leading web-based products, reports, profiles and services used by many of the world’s leading logistics suppliers, consultancies, banks and users of logistics services.

For further information, please contact Nick Bailey, Head of Research, [email protected]

Web: ti-insight.com

Twitter: @Ti_insight

Linkedin: Transport Intelligence 

Instagram: @logistics_briefing

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