Where Geopolitics and Business Intersect

One international expert takes attendees around the world, spotlighting forces at play and what that means for business. Check out our Top 3 take-aways.

There’s no denying that the business world faces new pressures, whether it’s the challenge to harness the power of science and new innovations, to invest in and deploy sustainable and climate forward solutions, or navigating supply chain issues. These pressures can be easily addressed with a little bit of foresight and an investment in planning, strategy and the appropriate resources.

However, what’s not so front-and-center from a business standpoint, and certainly even harder to navigate is the world of geopolitics and international business, said Anja Manuel, co-founder and partner at Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel LLC, a strategic consulting firm that helps U.S. companies navigate international markets.

At Soy Connext, the global U.S. Soy Summit that convened more than 600 international buyers and sellers of U.S. Soy representing 60+ countries, Manuel spotlighted a number of faces at play. Here are her Top 3 Take aways:

  1. Buckle your seatbelts. It’s going to continue to be a wild geopolitical ride, Manuel said. The world is just more unpredictable. Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan precipitated a crisis in China/Taiwan/U.S. relations. Add to that Russia’s unprecedented invasion of Ukraine. She said that type of instability in the international system may continue, making it difficult for businesses to predict and plan.
  2. China has been seen as the big new market for agriculture, and frankly, many other U.S. businesses. That may be slowing down, she said. The Chinese population has crested and will slowly go down from here. The Chinese economy is not shrinking; it’s still growing at 4-5% a year — but not at the blistering pace we saw previously.
  3. The world will continue to retreat from globalization. For decades, the world saw ever more open trade, more open borders, and increased globalization. Manuel said that pendulum is swinging back. We are seeing populist governments around the world: not just former President Trump’s election in the United States calling for ”America First,” really concentrating on our home market, but Bolsonaro calling for “Brazil first,” Erdogan for “Turkey first,” Modi for “India first” and so on. That is a continuing trend in the international system, which means companies cannot rely on ever more open markets and free trade.

Her advice to business leaders: “Don’t stop trying to do international business; It’s important. Just expect the ride to be bumpy and that means you need to focus on resilience.”

Instead of concentrating on one export market that comprised the bulk of your effort — like China — think about exporting to 8-10 different markets.

“We talked about Southeast and South Asia. These are smaller countries — not as big as China by itself — but they are fast-growing, great new middle classes,” she said. “There are international markets out there. It’s just going to take more persistence to find them and continue being in the international system.”

The U.S. Soybean Export Council hosted Soy Connext Aug. 22-24 in San Diego, California, with international customers through trade teams visiting U.S. Soy farms before and after the event. For more information about Soy Connext, visit ussec.org or soyconnext.ussec.org.

This article is not funded by the United Soybean Board or its checkoff dollars.