Supachai sounds alarm on disputes
Asia should brace for a proliferation of trade disputes, a slowing global economy, food and medical shortages and climate change concerns, warns Supachai Panitchpakdi, former director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Speaking at an online seminar entitled "Recharging Asia: Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development amidst Post Pandemic World" organised by the International Institute for Trade and Development, Mr Supachai said given the flood of information and crises the past few months, an accurate forecast of future events is difficult.
Trends include weakened globalisation because of trade pressures and a global economic slowdown due to the pandemic, he said.
"US-China trade tension has already given us a scare regarding expansion of shipments. Gradually we hope to hear more dialogues among major nations around the world, especially for the US and China," said Mr Supachai.
Following Brexit, both Britain and the EU are believed to be doing their best to cope with the situation, including reshoring activities, he said.
The international networks of production are all slowing down, an alarming yet consistent decline since the recession of 2008, said Mr Supachai. The share of foreign content in domestic production around the world has fallen as people source their inputs at home to be able to control their inventory and supply of essential goods as much as possible.
"We will see a fight back against globalisation and multilateralism. Two major multilateral meetings this year comprise the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, on Nov 21 in Glasglow. The pandemic has shown the human impact on ecology, deforestation, destruction of natural resources and biodiversity. Various governments have their own self-imposed guidelines to deal with these problems," he said.
"Then on Dec 21 in Geneva the 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO is planned to discuss the serious impact of Covid-19, as well as food scarcity, overfishing, food exports, the availability of vaccines for all countries, and compulsory licensing for emerging markets to produce vaccines without a monopoly. Another topic is the uncertainty about future technology and innovative development."
Mr Supachai said Thailand should promote foreign trade because it benefits from it greatly. The private sector should have full participation in designing and investing in social infrastructure as well as enhancing smart farming, he said.