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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The pandemic will accentuate the deepening uncertainty over the future of global trade, according to a new report.

Why it matters: Trade is the lifeblood of globalization, and it's helped lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. But populism, a growing rift between China and the U.S., and the wild card of COVID-19 could cause global trade to fracture into regional variations.

Robert Manning, resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, notes that global trade, which grew almost ninefold between 1980 and 2017, is now projected to fall by 13% to 32% in 2020.

  • Much of that is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to closed borders and a sharp reduction in economic activity across the board.
  • But, says Manning, "COVID-19 has really accelerated protectionist trends that were already in play."
  • The effect of disruptive technologies like biotech and AI — which Manning wrote about in a recent report I covered for Axios — has made countries less obviously dependent on each other, which has ramifications both for trade and global stability.

What to watch: Manning doesn't believe globalization is at an end, but he does see trade fragmenting, taking place more within set regions than freely across the globe.

  • That includes the internet, which is increasingly fracturing along national boundaries. Political shifts like China's heavy hand in Hong Kong will require internet companies accustomed to operating globally to choose sides.
"There's a real danger that if the two biggest trading powers in the U.S. and China continue to move in a nationalist direction, then things are going to get pretty ugly."
— Robert Manning

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Sep 2, 2020 - Health

America's botched coronavirus response foretells a dark future

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

America's failures in handling the coronavirus pandemic bode ill for our ability to deal with climate change and other threats that loom on the horizon.

Why it matters: America's ongoing struggles with the coronavirus have caused tremendous human and economic pain. But what should worry us for future disasters that could be far worse is the way the pandemic has exposed deep political divisions and a disinformation ecosystem that muddies even the hardest facts.

1 hour ago - Sports

Unvaccinated athletes face 21-day quarantine at Beijing Olympics

Logos for the 2022 Winter Olympics at Yanqing Ice Festival in February 2021 in Beijing. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Athletes, staff members and journalists at the 2022 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus will be required to quarantine for three weeks, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) outlined in its newly-published "playbooks."

Why it matters: The quarantine period is longer than the Games themselves, meaning vaccinations or an earlier arrival date will be required to participate in or cover the Games.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

FTX CEO predicts more U.S. crypto flight

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

FTX doesn't look much like a company valued at $25 billion. Its new headquarters, located in a sleepy part of The Bahamas, is so nondescript as to not even have a sign. But it does expect to soon have neighbors.

Driving the news: Founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried tells "Axios on HBO" to expect "more and more crypto flight from the states" if the U.S. doesn't soon create a regulatory regime for cryptocurrencies.