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Globalisation isn’t going away. It’s getting a multipolar makeover

We should remember that similar efforts in the 1980s to protect American carmakers from Japanese competition ultimately led to Japanese carmakers localising production within the US. Innovative products have a tendency to find their way to eager customers regardless of the regulatory environment.

Should we believe the world is stumbling towards a new era of “deglobalisation”, where isolationism, autarky and economic decoupling push countries apart into competing economic blocs? I don’t believe so. On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence to indicate the world is undergoing “re-globalisation” – a revamp of an integrated system towards a multipolar world economy.

This trajectory mirrors the experience of Central and Eastern European economies which started rapidly integrating into the EU after the fall of communism in the early 1990s. Former Soviet-aligned nations acceded to the EU in successive waves in the 2000s and began experiencing rapid convergence in per capita incomes compared to major Western European economies.

Let’s look closer at an economically integrated Europe’s trade relationship with China. EU-China bilateral trade data does show a drop from an all-time high. However, the data also suggests that EU-China trade could normalise.

I expect the growth trend will return despite the political noise we are currently hearing. But European and American tariffs on EVs from China are much lower than what would be required to discourage continued Chinese EV exports to the EU, which implies that there will continue to be competitive pressure as well as consumer choice.

Moreover, negotiations could indeed lead to onshoring of manufacturing by Chinese companies in Europe, which would bring their economies even closer.