Bracing for Instability in Global Trade for 2017

As we move into 2017, global trade management executives need to brace against disrupters that have the potential to send supply chains into tailspin.

During the past 11 months, supply chains have been riddled with disruptions at every turn. In January 2016, analysts predicted positive trends and a big trade uptick, but fate didn’t get the memo. The forecasts fell short, not for lack of effort but mainly because global trade was hit with numerous interruptions, driving importers and exporters scrambling to stay on course.

We rang in the New Year looking ahead to the implementation of numerous import, export and tariff agreements; the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) and IMMEX (Maquiladora) Program were expected to alter the way business was conducted. But we soon saw repeated delays as government officials realized the Goliath effort it takes to roll-out new technology platforms across multiple agencies. By February, worldwide air and ocean cargo shipments were showing signs of decline which continued to fall all year.

Spring approached with increasing military, geopolitical and labor unrest, along with the continuing refugee crisis in Europe. Britain’s June vote to exit the EU started the global tide of protectionism which permeated the U.S. presidential election and is leading to what is now termed “de-globalization.”

Cargo theft figures are reaching the multimillion-dollar mark and weather has hampered shipments; leading us to the Hanjin line bankruptcy headache that stalled shipments in a quagmire of legalese, and the further consolidation of ocean carriers caused by troubling business woes. As the industry whirled to stay ahead of all this, retailers closed hundreds of brick-and-mortar locations (or closed for good) to focus on the overwhelming sales over the web instead.

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