From the policies of President Trump to European populism, the list of geopolitical risks facing companies and their supply chains is extensive. How can your organizaton protect itself?
With so many unknowns and so much uncertainty, ranking the severity of the geopolitical risks confronting commodities, trade and financial markets at the start of 2017 is an impossible task.
Geopolitical risk analysis
Three of the biggest areas of risk appear to be coming from the United States, China, and the European Union where there is a state of political change, but just as significant are Russia, Turkey and North Korea.
One thing is for certain: highly regulated financial institutions and corporations with complex international supply chains cannot ignore geopolitical risk any longer.
A view reinforced by a recent announcement from Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman and CEO, when expressing his concern over the impact President Trump’s Mexican wall policy will have on the company’s relationship with Mexican suppliers and the impact the immigration policy will have on current and future employees.
There has been significant speculation that President Trump will place a moratorium on any new financial regulation.
In addition, his willingness to take on global corruption will be another big regulatory question looming over the new administration, as he assumes office having done business in high-risk and sanctioned countries and in the past has called the 40-year old Foreign Corrupt Practices Act “a horrible law” that hampers U.S. competitiveness.
Compliance professionals will need to understand the implications of any possible repeal of existing regulations such as the Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
There is also growing evidence suggesting that President Trump’s America First approach may rewrite America’s role as the global super power.
In its list of top ten risks, Eurasia Group summarized Washington’s approach as one where “if there’s not an obvious, near-term benefit for the U.S., or if it’s the provision of a “public good” where others are free riding, it’s not something the U.S. should be doing”.
The consequences of this uncompromising style of U.S. presidency and new approach to international trade are most likely to be felt by China.
Protectionism vs free trade
President Xi Jinping recently became the first ever Chinese president to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, during which he offered a defense of free trade and likened protectionism to “locking oneself in a dark room”.
After decades of economic boom and with high levels of debt, China will probably focus its attention on economic stability until this autumn’s National Congress of the Communist Party, an event that occurs every five years.
It is likely that Beijing will try to profit from President Trump’s potential opt out from the U.S. led geopolitical order in order to advance China’s interests, which in turn could result in some U.S. allies in Asia shifting allegiance.
Europe – an uncertain future
Elections have not been called in Italy this year yet, but with 63 governments in 70 years, it is still possible that Italians will be called upon to vote. Greece, where the economic crisis is dragging on without resolution, may follow suit.
Russia, Turkey and North Korea
It is likely that there will be growing pressure to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014 as a result of upcoming elections in a variety of countries where candidates have expressed pro-Russia leanings.
This, in conjunction with a possible growth in revenues from oil, may induce President Putin to pursue an expansion of Russia’s interests abroad and potentially confront NATO.
The Kremlin is also trying to diversify its foreign partners and has offered to supply the Philippines, a long standing U.S. ally, with sophisticated weapons including aircraft and submarines.
In Turkey, the failed coup and President Erdogan’s consolidation of power, have introduced additional uncertainty in the area.
Ankara will also strongly oppose any expansion of Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria to prevent the creation of a separate state and an alternative route to the Kirkuk-Ceyhan Pipeline.
With regards to North Korea, concerns have grown more urgent as Pyongyang’s nuclear and intercontinental missile capabilities are expanding fast.
How can companies protect themselves from geopolitical risk?
Minimizing geopolitical risk exposure begins with awareness.
In an era where disinformation is deliberately promoted, access to trustworthy, independent, and unbiased information is crucial.
Over the past few years, regulators have tried to ensure a greater harmonization in financial regulation globally.
However, there are now signals that this harmonization effort may be running out of steam, with different regulators taking different regulatory approaches.
As a result, organizations need to be able to anticipate and navigate global regulatory compliance confidently with the most comprehensive and trusted regulatory intelligence available.
Organizations with global business activity also need an accurate and up-to-date view of their location-based risk exposure.
Thomson Reuters Country Risk Ranking offers detailed, risk-based information on more than 240 countries and territories, divided into political, economic, and criminal factors, and helps organizations identify location risk attached to customers, partners, vendors, suppliers and transactions.
Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs)
To protect themselves against reputational damage in countries with upcoming elections, organizations should monitor their exposure to PEPs who, due to their position and influence, may abuse their position for the purpose of committing money laundering offences and related predicate offences, including corruption, bribery, and terrorist financing.
Companies with international value chains also face physical supply disruptions and shocks caused by geopolitical upheavals.
The Interactive Map on Thomson Reuters Eikon provides a direct way to monitor and analyze commodity production interruptions, supply outages, and transportation difficulties that affect the supply chain and impact prices.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Thomson Reuters.
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