Grüezi mitenand! Welcome to the World Economic Forum’s monthly update - the Forward Agenda. Building on the success of the Agenda Weekly, each month my team will pull together the most relevant and insightful points on the global agenda and publish here.
Growth at risk: A robust global economy, with some measures predicting GDP up over 4% in the second quarter, is at risk. Increasing protectionism, higher oil prices, rising interest rates, a high and rising US dollar, European fragmentation, and weak emerging economies threatened by a commodities slowdown are looming.
- On the brink? The US economy, fueled by tax cuts, spending, and bullish sentiment, has been the driver of the global economy through 2018. Is it threatened by the reversal of globalisation?
- Forward View: Fluctuations in GDP numbers impact the economy through news headlines and animal spirits. The challenge is to measure what matters.
More trade troubles: President Trump is set to impose tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese imports, in an escalating trade dispute that will put the European leaders in the spotlight this month. At a Sino-European summit in Beijing on July 16-17, China is reportedly hoping that the EU will join it in condemning US actions. The World Trade Organization, also under pressure from President Trump, could be in for a bumpy ride.
- Well noted: China, at its recent Central Party Conference on Foreign Affairs, reconfirmed Xi Jinping’s message to Davos 2017 - the country is ready to take on a leadership role in building global governance. What’s more, in the absence of American leadership, other countries are accelerating their efforts to adapt their trading frameworks.
- Forward View: The driver of global prosperity is business, and business leaders are getting increasingly impatient with populist attacks on the global system. From Harley Davidson and GE in the US, through Airbus, BMW and the banking industry in the UK, business leaders are taking decisions driven by hard-headed economics not emotional nationalism. Business leaders will increasingly speak up to defend the values of openness and internationalism.
A challenged alliance: NATO leaders will come together in the face of mounting challenges, from the east and from the west. The alliance is working out how to respond to new types of warfare in which guns, bullets and planes serve only as symbols of old power against weapons such as cyber and disinformation. US President Trump and Russian President Putin will meet in Helsinki on July 16 as a counterpoint, as NATO members respond to President Trump’s call for European members to shoulder a greater share of the costs of the alliance.
- Forward View: Global affairs are shifting in response to lightning fast changes in the geographical and technological bases of prosperity. Old alliances are forced to adapt as new ones grow up around new concepts of governance and power.
Can the center hold? Rising tensions around the definition of “rule of law” are adding to a maelstrom of challenges surrounding the European Union. The EU will decide in July whether to withdrawing budgetary support and voting rights from Poland and Hungary under Article 7, a provision that allows for sanction of EU member countries that infringe human rights. Elsewhere on the troubled continent: Brexit negotiations are increasingly time-bound and fractious, with costs to the UK mounting; refugees are the flashpoint issue dominating coalition relationships from Germany to Italy; and the burgeoning trade war with the US undermining otherwise respectable growth across the continents.
AI with nationalist characteristics: Artificial intelligence is fast becoming a critical geopolitical resource, with its commercial, military and scientific potential providing the basis for a new kind of arms race. Analysts urge governments to understand their country’s role in the AI economy and foster local talent and expertise, while at the same time ensuring that not all AI investment goes towards fattening corporate margins at the expense of jobs, communities and people.
- Forward View: Technical standards and protocols are the new gold and the resource of the new technology era. The Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution is designed to provide a neutral space for stakeholders to develop codes of practice and principles to maintain the balance between human and machine - for AI, drones, autonomous vehicles and other technologies shaping our times.
Transitional Payments: Experiments in Universal Basic Income as a solution for the technological job displacement are emerging around the world, with Ontario in Canada the latest. A pioneering Finnish programme ended earlier in the year, but the concept is being picked up by Silicon Valley tech pioneers who are sponsoring trials. One candidate for the US Presidency in 2020 is running with UBI as his sole issue.
- Forward View: Economic policymaking can’t keep up with the pace of change. Entrepreneurs and others can help promote agile governance.
Digital addiction: As the World Health Organization declares Gaming Disorder a disease, and Apple introduces new operating system tools to help addicted iPhone users, technology marketers are dealing with the consequences of success.
Funny money: Revelations of Bitcoin manipulation, fitting into a larger pattern of financial bubbles, hasn’t stopped one of Silicon Valley’s most storied venture houses raising $300 million for crypto (including investing directly in the currencies) and using the opportunity to appoint its first female general partner to manage it.
- Forward View: Whether the bitcoin bubble reinflates or not, crypto currencies and the blockchain on which they are based are not going away. Use this straight-forward framework to determine whether blockchain is for you.