Insights

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For EU companies, there may be no avoiding US-China hostilities

Trade & Manufacturing

As US-China trade hostilities slowly unfold, the EU is currently watching from the sidelines — mostly silently. But impacts in Europe are possible in the coming months, if only because US-China trade flows do not operate in isolation. Barriers between Washington and Beijing are a potential source of deflection towards other destinations and the EU is an obvious candidate…

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The other Trump trade war with China

Trade & Manufacturing

The Trump administration’s threat of 25% tariffs on $50bn of Chinese imports to the United States has inevitably dominated coverage of the President’s decision to escalate a long-standing irritation with Chinese approaches to US inward investment into a full-blown trade dispute. But there are three legs to the US review of Chinese practice under Section 301 of the 1974…

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General Politics

Whither global Britain and China’s Belt and Road?

General Politics

I have been in China again, this time as president of the Great Britain-China Centre, flying the flag at the UK-China Leadership Forum. This is an annual event at which representatives of Britain’s political parties exchange views with China’s communist party. The delegation was led by Theresa May’s able number two, David Liddington, and I was the senior Labour man (hope…

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General Politics

Xi opens the door at Boao

General Politics

Was it a rehash of old announcements or concessions that could prevent a trade war? These starkly different verdicts have been offered on President Xi’s plans to liberalise the Chinese economy, set out at the Boao forum this week. In practice, it was neither. What Xi provided is a basis for negotiation, which means the hard work still needs to be done if trade tensions…

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General Politics

Italy, and why not all political negotiations are equal

General Politics

Signs are clearly pointing to the two winners of Italy’s 4 March election – the Five Star Movement and Lega – being able to work together, and it is looking increasingly likely they will seek to reach some sort of governing arrangement. But, despite successfully reaching an agreement on the speakers for the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate last week, they will find that…

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The Trump trade gamble

Trade & Manufacturing

For all of Donald Trump’s flexibility on policy issues, US-China trade is one area where he has demonstrated surprisingly constant views over the years. Unlike the Washington political establishment, Trump and his group of trade advisers not only believe that the integration of the American and Chinese markets since China’s 2001 entry into the WTO has not benefited both…

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Mutual recognition – mutual incomprehension?

General Policy

The UK government has finally started to flesh out what sort of future trade and regulatory relationship it wants to negotiate with the EU. Central to this are a revised set of market access and product standard recognition rights in the EU single market based on what the UK often calls ‘mutual recognition’. This suggestion has been rebuffed in a number of places and ways…

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General Politics

Xi’s next term, or is it his last?

General Politics

At the China Entrepreneurs Conference in Yabuli last week (see my previous blog for reflections), the theme was 40 years of reform and opening up of China’s economy. Earlier in the week, news seeped out that China’s two-term leadership rule was about to be scrapped, allowing Xi Jinping to stay in power beyond 2023. Commentary flooded the international media, but…

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General Politics

Germany’s fiscal trilemma: why Europe could lose out

General Politics

Sunday’s result of the SPD membership vote has been welcomed across Europe. Many, from Paris to Rome and Madrid, are relieved that the SPD will be part of the next government (and the FDP in opposition). What makes Social Democrats so attractive is their commitment to ‘more Europe’ and eurozone reform, and their openness to put additional German money on the table to…

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Yabuli: where Chinese businesses move and shake

General Policy

Most Davos regulars will not know of the town of Yabuli, a remote town in northern China closer to Vladivostok than Beijing. But, having spent much of last week trekking to and from Yabuli, I have realised both towns have something in common. I was there to attend the annual China Entrepreneurs Forum (think the World Economic Forum but with no politicians or NGOs). Yabuli…

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The illusion of managed divergence

Trade & Manufacturing

The Institute for Government’s model of managed divergence for the UK and EU economies has been influential in shaping the UK government’s position. It’s an ingenious attempt to address some of the thorniest economic and political challenges presented by Brexit. But while it may provide a basis for the UK cabinet ministers to bridge their differences, it is unlikely to be…

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When the regulator is a competitor

Financial Services

Transport for London (TfL) is the city’s transport regulator, responsible for operating multiple modes of transport for 1.3bn passengers a year, such as the Tube, the Emirates Air Line and London’s 700 different red bus routes. In addition to this operational role, TfL has a legal duty to grant – and police – the licences of private hire operators, traditional taxis and…

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General Politics

The “cost” of Labour’s nationalisation agenda

General Politics

The nationalisation of several utilities and rail franchises is a key plank of the UK Labour Party’s policy platform. To the dismay of implicated business leaders, it is also relatively popular, according both to the 2017 general election result and to separate polling. But how much would it cost - is Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell right to claim, as he did in a speech…

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Outsourcers' struggles in the UK are an opportunity for the mid-market

General Policy

Capita’s profit warning is yet another sign of the growing fragility of the large, generalist outsourcing sector in the UK. That no bail-out was forthcoming for Carillion showed that such firms are not too big to fail. Indeed, the question seems to be whether they are too big to survive. This should imply significant opportunities for smaller, specialist firms, and…

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Fear and loathing in data protection

TMT

All eyes in the tech community in Europe and beyond are fixed on 25th May 2018 when the EU’s General Data Protection Agreement (GDPR) finally enters into force. But many are misunderstanding what is driving the agenda here - focusing on the apparent loathing of big tech in Brussels when, in truth, the European Commission is driven more by fear of failure.

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Sizing up the British economy

Financial Services

Are economic statistics – such as for inflation, growth and productivity – no longer reliable? And if not, what does this mean for economic policy and for businesses?

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General Politics

Is Poland’s government reshuffle an olive branch to Brussels?

General Politics

Just under a month following his first attendance before the European Council, Poland’s new Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has piqued Brussels’ interest in his young premiership with a major cabinet reshuffle. The move targets the most hard-line, nationalist ministers with portfolios core to the EU’s agenda: defence, foreign affairs, digital and the environment. The…

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The political battle for consumers in the UK

General Policy

For some time now, the two main political parties in the UK have been battling for the same group of voters who feel disenfranchised, left behind and have faced what some have dubbed the ‘lost decade’ of stagnant wage increases. Since the general election, however, this battle has intensified, and it is now the case that more weight is being given by both parties to…

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