Emerging markets more upbeat about global trade: Survey

The Bloomberg survey found that 63 per cent of professionals from emerging markets say they believe there will be more global trade in five years' time, compared with 36 per cent in developed markets.
The Bloomberg survey found that 63 per cent of professionals from emerging markets say they believe there will be more global trade in five years' time, compared with 36 per cent in developed markets.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Business professionals in developing countries are surprisingly more optimistic about the global trade outlook than those in the developed world, according to a new survey.

It found that 63 per cent of professionals from emerging markets say they believe there will be more global trade in five years' time, a view seemingly at odds with rising protectionism and trade tensions.

That view is especially pronounced among respondents from China (66 per cent), India (71 per cent), Indonesia (74 per cent), the Philippines (76 per cent) and Thailand (80 per cent), said the Bloomberg survey.

This contrasts with developed markets, where just 36 per cent expect more global trade in five years.

Bloomberg chief economist Tom Orlik said: "One of the striking findings... is the divergence between optimism... in emerging markets, and pessimism in developed economies.

"This suggests that, for emerging markets, the costs of the current slide towards a trade war could be less than expected.

"If businesses retain that fundamental optimism about the outlook for trade, continued hiring and investment could propel growth forward, even as tariff barriers rise."

Overall, 74 per cent of those polled believe the global system of trade can be restored, but only in the long term, with just half seeing more global trade in five years.

Professionals in Singapore are more pessimistic, with 63 per cent believing the global trading system can be restored in the long term, and 27 per cent saying there will be less trade in five years' time.

This was the second-highest rate in the poll and compared with only 18 per cent of global respondents.

Business people in developing countries are also more motivated to prepare for the future than their developed world counterparts.

The poll noted that 66 per cent of respondents from emerging markets said they are learning new technologies, compared with 43 per cent in developed markets; and 56 per cent are upskilling and taking additional courses, compared with 29 per cent in developed markets.

When asked to predict the top three economic powerhouses in 10 years' time, 86 per cent of respondents chose China, followed by the United States (70 per cent) and Japan (36 per cent).

The Bloomberg survey polled 2,000 professionals in 20 markets. It was conducted in advance of the inaugural New Economy Forum to be held in Singapore on Nov 6 and 7, and hosted by group founder Michael Bloomberg.

"The survey provides a barometer into public sentiment towards a world economy in transition, a key theme which we will explore... in Singapore next month," said Mr Justin Smith, chief executive officer of Bloomberg Media Group.

"The survey reveals vast differences in perceptions for the future and highlights the need to bring together global leaders in business and government to find private-sector-led solutions to some of the world's biggest challenges."

Despite an expressed lack of confidence in government leadership, 75 per cent of respondents across the globe said they believe world leaders and governments should be the primary force in driving initiatives to overcome global challenges.

But the private sector has no choice but to tackle the issues arising from the emerging economic order, because governments are failing to act, said Mr Smith.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2018, with the headline 'Emerging markets more upbeat about global trade: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe