2019: Hopes and Challenges

As we have already entered into the year of 2019 on the Gregorian calendar, it is an appropriate time to take stock of what happened over the previous year and to assess what 2019 will bring for the businesses the world over.

Here in China and for Chinese communities all over the world, the lunar New Year festivities to herald in the Year of the Pig—traditionally a period of good fortune and prosperity – just passed.  Yet the year 2019 also heralds a great number of internal challenges for China, including a continuing economic slowdown as well as trade friction with its biggest international partners. However, the hot topic on China’s political agenda should be domestic economic reform. While there has been a lot of talk about reform
in recent months, no clear road map as how it will be carried out has been promulgated. Our hope is that in the new year, if there is not some sort of significant level of reformation measures introduced in order to appease the international business community, then perhaps an effective schedule towards future reform must be established for any hope of implementation in the future.

Looking to the European Union, the previous year was arguably one of the most memorable in its history, with Eurosceptic parties now being a mainstay in many countries’ parliaments and conservative right-of-centre ideals a permanent feature in the political landscape of many European nation-state. Across the continent, driven by both the continued uncertainty as to what a final Brexit will look like as well as the migratory movement that has seen millions of people landing on our shores, Euroscepticism is at an all-time high. Therefore the outcome of this May’s European Parliament elections will be closely watched by the international community as the future of Europe may well be decided this year. The most important thing that must come out of this election is that we stand together as European sovereign people to face down the challenges before us: united in our diversity.

This May’s election will, of course, be followed by the selection of a new European Commission and a new president of the European Council. These changes will in all likelihood bring about a new political order that will aim to take the union into the next stage of its development. In what is effectively a period of transition, we hope that the ideals of the founding members of what was then the European Economic Community will be upheld, in order to further develop ourselves, through our work, our values, and our shared cultural identity.

Especially now, during this period of uncertainty for global economy and a year of arduous reform ahead, it is in the shared interest of both the Chinese and European people to conclude the negotiations for the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment.

Looking to the United States, 2019 is likely to become another whirlwind year for the Trump Administration, with the second US-North Korea summit scheduled to be in February and the ongoing trade frictions with China, which for the sake of everyone involved—including, of course, third parties—will hopefully be resolved as soon as possible. Moreover, we generally believe that protectionism is an untenable policy choice in the modern globalized economy and that countries shall instead work together to modernise the World Trade Organization (WTO). A modernisation of the WTO may be deemed necessary to create a fairer trading system that fits the reality of the 21st century.

Our immediate concern here should be to resolve  the impasse regarding the appointment of judges to the WTO Appellate Court. Currently, only three of the seven positions are filled, with the terms of two of the remaining judges expiring at the end of this year. Three judges is, of course, the minimum number need to render a verdict. Thus without a timely replacement of the two judges, the WTO Appellate Court will not function anymore after December 2019. Improved business regulation for the modern world is also an avenue in which the WTO must seek to engage in to take account of the new technologies that have come to market over the past two decades.

In conclusion, the global business environment in 2019 seems hotly tipped for reform, and there are also unique opportunities for co-operation beckoning. At the center of it all, European Union and China are poised to see changes, which also hold the potential for close and more sustainable collaboration between our two economic blocs. So here’s to 2019, the year of the Pig, we wish you all
新年快乐 and a happy New Year!