Iain Conn proposes new narrative on global trade

Iain Conn was in Brussels last week for the Brussels Forum, a gathering of European and US leaders

Addressing the 2017 Brussels Forum, Group Chief Executive Iain Conn spoke on the future of global trade in a period of uncertainty. The theme of this year’s conference was to find solutions to some of the world’s challenges and Iain gave a business perspective as the CEO of a company with significant exposure to international trade.

Speaking on the subject of “Does the world want to be connected?” in the current context of rising protectionism and populism on both sides of the Atlantic, Iain argued that people want to be connected, but on their own terms. He stressed that politicians and business leaders should not be complacent and ensure the economic and societal benefits of free trade are preserved.

He explained, “Free trade is not perfect but trying to fix it with more regulation will not solve the problem. We do have to pay attention to parts of the economies that are not doing well. We need to protect them through industrial strategies, infrastructure development, investment programmes and R&D support.”

“The pace of technological change is unprecedented and presents a huge challenge for leaders. Work is changing. To adapt to this, education, skilling, re-skilling and lifelong learning are crucial.”

The German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum took place against the backdrop of Brexit, Donald Trump’s election and heightened security concerns. The ambition of the Forum is to promote transatlantic cooperation, share experiences and contribute ideas that can be put in practice by governments and businesses. 

 (Iain’s introductory comments start at 28:30)