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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.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.