President and CEO,
International Economic Forum of the Americas
The Conference of Paris’s 2nd edition was a great success. Thank you!
On October 2 and 3, The Conference of Paris welcomed over 1,200 participants and nearly 80 speakers, who spoke on the theme of Reshaping Globalization, Mastering Change.
The discussions focused on the five major strategic issues facing economic globalization:
- The digital revolution, including such advances as AI, robotics and 3D printing, which is fueling a fourth industrial revolution that we must first come to grips with and then ensure that the productivity standards and competitiveness it produces remain human-centred;
- The communications revolution, which enables people worldwide to be in increasingly immediate and direct contact with each other, and which helps spread ideologies such as human rights protection but also populism and protectionism, with an all-too predictable impact on immigration policies;
- The energy transition, which is leading us towards renewable energy sources such as solar, and which is having a profound global socio-political and economic impact, because traditionally energy-importing countries are getting easier access to clean energy, and because oil and gas producing countries are suffering financial consequences;
- Climate change and the challenge of sustainable development, which directly impact the health, quality of life and economic situation of governments, companies and individuals, all of whom must deal with a rapidly increasing number of natural disasters;
- Education, which is proving to be the foundation of a new civilization by becoming better, more widespread and more accessible thanks to the digital and communications revolutions.
The intersection of these five major issues has serious consequences for the global economy. Several speakers pointed out that, some 10 years after the Great Recession of 2008, we are in danger of entering another recession. They posited that, despite positive economic growth in developed countries, recent stock market volatility is clearly a reason for deep concern.
This concern stems primarily from the indebtedness of developing countries, even as the US dollar grows stronger due to the booming American economy and the central bank’s control of inflation through higher interest rates. Furthermore, trade wars – such as the current one between the United States and China – significantly impact national and regional economies. And we know that the central banks have less room to manoeuvre now than they did in 2008 to address liquidity problems.
However, as other speakers pointed out, everything is a question of trust. We would be well advised to look twice before crying wolf in case it is only the neighbour’s dog. Some of the talks clearly showed that central banks – particularly those in the United States and the European Union – have taken the necessary steps to keep the annual inflation rate at around 2%.
Clearly, the most significant threat to the current period of economic growth is unsustainable levels of government and household debt – a direct result of low interest rates and the consequent access to easymoney which, it must be said, enabled us to overcome the Great Recession.
Another dangerous element are heightened geopolitical tensions in many countries that are, directly or indirectly, throwing the fundamental rules of democracy into question. As one speaker reminded us, ten years ago, global finance was the main factor affecting geopolitical imbalance; today the reverse is probably true. The question of how investors should deal with these issues was the topic of many fascinating talks.
In short, some 23 years after the WTO was established, we must remain vigilant and be ready to reshape globalization. The challenge will be to manage the long overdue changes that should lead the economy towards a new business cycle, one that will demonstrate a new, human-centred approach.
It is doubtless also time to take another look at the principles of liberalism and multilateralism that prevailed during the first round of globalization and adapt them to the current economic and socio-political realities. However, as was said several times during the Conference: “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water!” Remember, globalization is responsible for lifting at least one billion people out of extreme poverty. It has also led to the current industrial revolution that is substantially changing the way we think and act, brought about by the new capitalism that is becoming increasingly entrenched in rich countries.
It is our duty to manage globalization more responsibly, to be more inclusive and collaborate more so we can establish a new era of prosperity and global humanism.
The Conference of Paris was a great success in that it provided a venue for plenary sessions, forums and bilateral business meetings where participants could have open and pragmatic discussions leading to a better understanding of these important issues.
I would like to thank our two Co-Chairs, Gérard Mestrallet, Chairman, SUEZ, and Honorary Chairman, ENGIE, and Paul Desmarais, Jr., Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Power Corporation of Canada. Many thanks also to our Honorary President and host, OECD Secretary-General Ángel Gurría, for his significant contributions. By giving us access to the OECD Conference Centre’s expertise in a number of sectors that are vital to our new global economy, the organization adds a unique dimension to The Conference of Paris.
Finally, I extend my sincere thanks to all our partners, speakers and presenters whose presence and expertise was a great benefit to all participants.
I hope to have the pleasure of welcoming you to our other upcoming IEFA forums:
- The World Strategic Forum in Miami, on April 1 and 2, 2019, on the topic of Building a Sustainable Future;
- The Conference of Montreal, from June 10 to 13, 2019, on the topic of Embracing Change;
- The Toronto Global Forum, from Septermber 4 to 6, 2019, on the topic of Leading the New Economy;
- The Conference of Paris, from November 13 to 14, 2019.