A new pattern of world commerce is becoming clearer—as are its costs
WHEN AMERICA took a protectionist turn two years ago, it provoked dark warnings about the miseries of the 1930s. Today those ominous predictions look misplaced. Yes, China is slowing. And, yes, Western firms exposed to China, such as Apple, have been clobbered. But in 2018 global growth was decent, unemployment fell and profits rose. In November President Donald Trump signed a trade pact with Mexico and Canada. If talks over the next month lead to a deal with Xi Jinping, relieved markets will conclude that the trade war is about political theatre and squeezing a few concessions from China, not detonating global commerce.
两年前美国政策转向保护主义时，有人发出了上世纪 30 年代的苦难将要重演的黑暗警告。今天，这些不祥的预测看起来是错的。确实，中国经济正在放缓。也确实，苹果等依赖中国市场的西方企业已受到重挫。但 2018 年全球经济增长良好，失业率下降，利润增加。11 月，特朗普与墨西哥和加拿大签署了贸易协定。如果本月与习近平的谈判能达成一项协议，那么压力得到缓解的市场将得出结论，认为贸易战就是一场政治秀，迫使中国做出一些让步，而不是引爆全球贸易冲突。
Such complacency is mistaken. Today’s trade tensions are compounding a shift that has been under way since the financial crisis in 2008-09. As we explain, cross-border investment, trade, bank loans and supply chains have all been shrinking or stagnating relative to world GDP. Globalisation has given way to a new era of sluggishness. Adapting a term coined by a Dutch writer, we call it “slowbalisation”.
这种对现状的心满意足是错误的。今天的贸易紧张局势正在加剧自 2008 至 2009 年金融危机以来一直在发生的转变。相对于全球 GDP，跨境投资、贸易、银行贷款和供应链都在萎缩或陷入停滞。全球化已让位于一个疲软的新时代。借用一位荷兰作家创造的一个词，我们将这个转变称之为“慢球化”（slowbalisation）。
The golden age of globalisation, in 1990-2010, was something to behold. Commerce soared as the cost of shifting goods in ships and planes fell, phone calls got cheaper, tariffs were cut and the financial system liberalised. International activity went gangbusters, as firms set up around the world, investors roamed and consumers shopped in supermarkets with enough choice to impress Phileas Fogg.
从 1990 年持续至 2010 年的全球化黄金时代有目共睹。海运和空运成本下降，电话费率降低，关税削减，金融自由化，贸易量随之猛增。企业在全球开疆拓土，投资者到处寻找机会，消费者在超市购物，选择之多足以让斐利亚·福克（ Phileas Fogg）赞叹，商业由此兴旺发达。
Globalisation has slowed from light speed to a snail’s pace in the past decade for several reasons. The cost of moving goods has stopped falling. Multinational firms have found that global sprawl burns money and that local rivals often eat them alive. Activity is shifting towards services, which are harder to sell across borders: scissors can be exported in 20ft-containers, hair stylists cannot. And Chinese manufacturing has become more self-reliant, so needs to import fewer parts.
过去十年中，全球化的速度从光速骤减至蜗牛爬行的速度，有多个原因。货运成本已经停止下降。跨国公司发现全球布局很烧钱，而且经常会惨败给本地竞争对手。经济活动的重心已转向服务业，而服务更难开展跨境交易：剪刀可以装在 20 英尺集装箱里出口，但发型师不能。中国的制造业已变得更加自力更生，因此需要进口的零件也减少了。
This is the fragile backdrop to Mr Trump’s trade war. Tariffs tend to get the most attention. If America ratchets up duties on China in March, as it has threatened, the average tariff rate on all American imports will rise to 3.4%, its highest for 40 years. (Most firms plan to pass the cost on to customers.) Less glaring, but just as pernicious, is that rules of commerce are being rewritten around the world. The principle that investors and firms should be treated equally regardless of their nationality is being ditched.
这就是特朗普贸易战的脆弱背景。关税往往会得到最多的关注。如果美国在 3 月如其所威胁的那样进一步对中国提高关税，那么美国的平均关税率将升至 3.4%，为 40 年来的最高水平。（大多数公司计划将成本转嫁给客户。）而另一件事没那么显眼，却同样有害：商业规则正在全世界范围内被重写。不论国籍平等对待投资者和企业的原则正在被抛弃。
Evidence for this is everywhere. Geopolitical rivalry is gripping the tech industry, which accounts for about 20% of world stockmarkets. Rules on privacy, data and espionage are splintering. Tax systems are being bent to patriotic ends—in America to prod firms to repatriate capital, in Europe to target Silicon Valley. America and the EU have new regimes for vetting foreign investment, while China, despite its bluster, has no intention of giving foreign firms a level playing-field. America has weaponised the power it gets from running the world’s dollar-payments system, to punish foreigners such as Huawei. Even humdrum areas such as accounting and antitrust are fragmenting.
这方面的证据无处不在。地缘政治较量正在强烈影响约占全球股票市场 20% 的科技产业。隐私、数据和间谍方面的规则正变得支离破碎。税收制度屈从于爱国要求——在美国是为了促使企业将资本调回国内，在欧洲则是用来对付硅谷。美国和欧盟有了新的外资审查制度，而中国尽管在夸口，但也并不打算给予外国企业公平的竞争环境。美国已然将自己对世界美元支付体系的掌控用作武器来惩罚华为等外国企业。即使是会计和反垄断等乏味的领域也在分裂。
Trade is suffering as firms use up the inventories they had stocked in anticipation of higher tariffs. Expect more of this in 2019. But what really matters is firms’ long-term investment plans, as they begin to lower their exposure to countries and industries that carry high geopolitical risk or face unstable rules. There are now signs that an adjustment is beginning. Chinese investment into Europe and America fell by 73% in 2018. The global value of cross-border investment by multinational companies sank by about 20% in 2018.
先前企业预计关税会进一步提高，因而增加了库存，但随着这些库存耗尽，贸易正在受损。2019 年这种情况还会增多。但真正要紧的是企业的长期投资计划——它们开始减少对地缘政治风险高或规则变幻不定的国家和行业的投入。有迹象显示一轮调整正在启动。2018 年，中国对欧美的投资下降了 73%。跨国公司跨境投资的全球总额在 2018 年下降了约 20%。
The new world will work differently. Slowbalisation will lead to deeper links within regional blocs. Supply chains in North America, Europe and Asia are sourcing more from closer to home. In Asia and Europe most trade is already intra-regional, and the share has risen since 2011. Asian firms made more foreign sales within Asia than in America in 2017. As global rules decay, a fluid patchwork of regional deals and spheres of influence is asserting control over trade and investment. The European Union is stamping its authority on banking, tech and foreign investment, for example. China hopes to agree on a regional trade deal this year, even as its tech firms expand across Asia. Companies have $30trn of cross-border investment in the ground, some of which may need to be shifted, sold or shut.
新世界的运作模式将有所不同。“慢球化”将令区域内经济体之间的联系加深。北美、欧洲和亚洲的供应链正更多地从更近的地点采购。在亚洲和欧洲，大多数贸易活动都发生在区域内，而且这一占比自 2011 年以来不断上升。亚洲企业 2017 年的国外销售额中，亚洲国家的占比比美国更高。随着全球规则失去影响力，各种易变的区域协议和势力范围开始控制贸易和投资。比如欧盟就正在银行业、科技和外国投资领域树立权威。中国希望在今年达成一项区域贸易协议，而此时它的科技企业正在亚洲各地扩张。企业在该区域的跨境投资总计 30 万亿美元，其中一些可能需要转移、出售或叫停。
Fortunately, this need not be a disaster for living standards. Continental-sized markets are large enough to prosper. Some 1.2bn people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990, and there is no reason to think that the proportion of paupers will rise again. Western consumers will continue to reap large net benefits from trade. In some cases, deeper integration will take place at a regional level than could have happened at a global one.
幸运的是，这不必定会重创生活水平。规模堪比一个洲的各个市场足以维持繁荣。自 1990 年以来，约有 12 亿人摆脱了极端贫困，没有理由认为贫困人口的比例会再次上升。西方消费者将继续从贸易中获得巨大的净利益。在某些情况下，在区域层面将实现比全球层面更深入的一体化。
Yet slowbalisation has two big disadvantages. First, it creates new difficulties. In 1990-2010 most emerging countries were able to close some of the gap with developed ones. Now more will struggle to trade their way to riches. And there is a tension between a more regional trading pattern and a global financial system in which Wall Street and the Federal Reserve set the pulse for markets everywhere. Most countries’ interest rates will still be affected by America’s even as their trade patterns become less linked to it, leading to financial turbulence. The Fed is less likely to rescue foreigners by acting as a global lender of last resort, as it did a decade ago.
但“慢球化”有两大缺点。首先，它带来了新的难题。在 1990 年至 2010 年期间，大部分新兴国家都在一定程度上缩小了与发达国家之间的差距。今后，会有更多新兴国家难以通过贸易实现富裕。而在更为区域性的贸易模式与由华尔街和美联储为各地市场设定脉搏的全球金融体系之间存在冲突。大多数国家与美国的贸易关联已经减弱，而它们的利率却仍将受到美国利率的影响，这会导致金融动荡。与十年前不同，美联储不太可能再次充当全球的最终贷款人来拯救外国人。
Second, slowbalisation will not fix the problems that globalisation created. Automation means there will be no renaissance of blue-collar jobs in the West. Firms will hire unskilled workers in the cheapest places in each region. Climate change, migration and tax-dodging will be even harder to solve without global co-operation. And far from moderating and containing China, slowbalisation will help it secure regional hegemony yet faster.
Globalisation made the world a better place for almost everyone. But too little was done to mitigate its costs. The integrated world’s neglected problems have now grown in the eyes of the public to the point where the benefits of the global order are easily forgotten. Yet the solution on offer is not really a fix at all. Slowbalisation will be meaner and less stable than its predecessor. In the end it will only feed the discontent.