The global trading system is undergoing tectonic shifts that will reorient international supply chains for decades to come.
Blame two main forces. Companies spooked by pandemic shortages, price spikes and shipping disruptions are reducing reliances on a single factory or country. Meanwhile, governments — especially those in the US and Europe — want to ensure access to key materials like semiconductors and rare-earth minerals in case the world trade splinters into geopolitical blocs.
The transformation that some are calling “reglobalization” will take years, and trade data is only beginning to offer clues about the scope of the changes, and who’s winning and losing. Here are eight indicators to watch to help understand the implications of this new era of geostrategic economics.
Despite talk of globalization’s demise, economic integration via cross-border commerce has shown remarkable resilience through war, famine and a pandemic. Over the past three years, world trade as a share of global production has softened a bit but remains largely in line with historical trends. In fact, there has been no meaningful shift in the trajectory toward greater trade openness since at least 2006, according to a recent ING Groep NV analysis.
Over the past five years, US tariffs, export restrictions and subsidies have persuaded American companies to diversify their imports away from China. The total share of Chinese imports to the US has slipped about 3 percentage points since 2018, when former President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on thousands of Chinese goods. During this time, China ceded a portion of its share of total US imports to other Asian export nations like Vietnam, India, Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand.
That said, Chinese manufacturers looking to sidestep US tariffs and shorten supply chains are opening operations in nations such as Vietnam, Thailand and Mexico.
Mexico is becoming a key US sourcing alternative to China. Highly integrated US-Mexico supply lines and preferential trade treatment under the USMCA are helping to create investment opportunities across the border. Importers — and even some Chinese exporters — looking to diversify their supply chains are racing to snap up Mexican industrial space, which reached a 97.5% occupancy rate in 2022. Demand for warehouses and other industrial properties is particularly high along the US border near Tijuana where industrial vacancy rates are near zero. Some 47 new industrial parks are either planned or under construction, according to the Mexican Association of Private Industrial Parks.
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