World Economy Remains on Shaky Ground

Global Watch

The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development warns the world economy remains fragile, one decade after the collapse of the U.S. financial titan Lehman Brothers triggered a global economic crisis.

In its report Trade and Development Report 2018: Power, Platforms and the Free Trade Delusion, UNCTAD says the world economy once again is under stress. It views trade wars and escalating tariffs as symptoms of a growing economic malaise. It warns the world economy is walking a tightrope between debt-fueled growth and financial instability.

Lead author of the report Richard Kozul-Wright says many of the underlying problems that caused the 2008 financial crisis have not been addressed. He says footloose capital, precarious jobs, persistent inequality and rising debt remain problematic.

“We see growing asset bubbles and emerging crises everywhere," he said. "Profits have been on an all-time high and real investment in the economy has not picked up. What we know from history is that debt-fueled booms always end badly. We do not know how. We do not know when, but if history is any guide the excessive reliance on debt in the current global economy will not end well for many economies.”

Kozul-Wright says trade wars, in many ways, are a reflection of lack of trust across the political system. He blames much of the tensions and problems seen in the global trading system on hyper globalization, which has not resulted in a win-win world.

The report finds global trade continues to be dominated by big firms. It says more than 50 percent of world trade is run through the top one percent of each country’s exporting firms.

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