In the past few years, Twitter has evolved from a casual social media platform to a legitimate arena for political and economic discussion. As the decade comes to a close, it feels appropriate to look back on the top ten tweets in the trade sector that we’ve seen in 2019.
#10 — Lijian Zhao’s Update on China’s Belt and Road Initiative
Chinese diplomats don’t tend to be active on social media. Lijian Zhao is the exception to this rule. Our list opens with his praise of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative efforts in Pakistan, as construction of a new motorway constitutes one of the major arteries of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — something American ambassador Alice Wells has recently expressed reservations about. Zhao opens his tweet with “Masha Allah”, an everyday Arabic expression used to mean “God has willed it”. In an unexpectedly candid turn of phrase from a Chinese official, Zhao’s casual language hopes to strengthen China-Pakistan relations. One can only hope it works, as Zhao has been known to craft highly controversial messages on Twitter.
#9 — Where the Huawei Controversy Began
Al-Jazeera, in this tweet, was one of the first to break the news that the United States Justice Department had charged Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei with multiple counts of fraud. The trade war between the two countries was already underway at the time, but this development was one of the major sources of tension, adding fuel to a fire that still hasn’t burned out. The United States would go on to blacklist the company; China has recently threatened Germany should they make a similar move.
#8 — Hong Kong Protests Reach Their Peak
On June 16th, the South China Morning Post reported that close to two million protesters marched in Hong Kong, in what remains the city’s largest demonstration yet. It’s impossible to talk about 2019 and without mentioning the Hong Kong protests; although not a trade issue in and of itself, the delicate situation between Hong Kong and China has made many an investor wary, and for good reason. Between the Sino-American trade war, and the protests themselves, the facade may soon crack: real estate has already suffered.
#7 — Donald Trump’s Good Week
Conservative commentator and Tea Party member Michael Johns tweets in support of U.S. president Donald Trump. Republicans across America are singing the president’s praises, arguing that despite the impeachment proceedings against him, he’s had one of the most successful weeks of his presidency. The fact that Trump struck two trade deals recently is not necessarily a surprise at all — it’s an excellent demonstration of how, when the going gets tough, politicians seek to amass as many victories as possible. This tweet is a reminder of how trade and politics are inextricably tied together, for better or for worse.
#6 — Trump Congratulates Boris Johnson
It’s becoming impossible to compile a list of tweets without Donald Trump being one of the personalities involved. In this recent tweet, he congratulates Boris Johnson on his election win, as the conservatives took the UK in a landslide. His eagerness to come to a new trade agreement is indicative of how, now that Boris Johnson has been elevated to the status of prime minister through a nation-wide election rather than an in-party one, he may perhaps be more amenable to grander-sweeping policy decisions. Trade will undoubtedly be affected as the UK renegotiates its deals, especially surrounding Brexit.
#5 — Breaking Developments in the South Korea/Japan Trade Conflict
In the most recent tweet on this list, The Korea Herald reports that talks on de-escalating the South Korea/Japan trade war are finally in play. The conflict began months ago, as political tensions boiled over into economic ones. Earlier this summer, a Korean Supreme Court decision ruled to allow citizens to sue Japanese firms over their use of forced Korean labourers during the second world war. Japan retaliated by removing South Korea from its list of preferred trading partners. This retaliation prompted a “Boycott Japan” movement in Korea; it seems both nations have had enough of this back-and-forth.
#4 — The World’s First Paperless Trade Transaction
The size of the Trade Finance gap is approximately $1.5 Trillion. DLT, Blockchain, and other methods of trade digitization have often been cited as the best ways to bridge this gap. In a momentous milestone for trade digitization, this past summer has seen the world’s first fully digitized, completely paperless trade transaction. Mining analysts tweet out the news. A sale of iron ore from Australia to China was processed in approximately two hours, compared to the 1-2 days it would’ve taken via traditional methods. This is an extremely exciting breakthrough, and one that TFG has reported on. The future of Trade Finance could well be digital and paperless.
#3 — Heidi N. Moore’s Explanation of the Inverted Yield Curve, and why it Matters
In the number three spot is journalist Heidi N. Moore’s series of tweets on the inverted yield curve. The first tweet in the set is pictured above, but the entire thread is well worth a read. In it, Moore explains in layman’s terms the concept of the yield curve, what it is, and why, when it inverts, a recession is likely. Given that the US and the UK have seen inverted yield curves recently (and Japan has come dangerously close), this is a topic worth reading on.
#2 — Paul Krugman’s Analysis of the Sino-American Trade War’s De-escalation
Our runner-up tweet comes from famed economist and author Paul Krugman. Like the previous entry, this comes from a series of multiple tweets, and the entire thread makes for an excellent read. Krugman discusses the recent de-escalation agreement the Trump administration has reached with China regarding the Sino-American trade war. He points out that although this may sound like a victory on Trump’s end, China came out of the trade conflict with fewer bruises than the US (which is as close as one can get to “winning” a trade war). He backs up his argument with multiple figures and articles, as an academic is wont to do.
#1 — Announcement of the 2020 Incoterms
We end with perhaps the most anticipated development in the trade space: the announcement of Incoterms 2020 (which TFG spoke to expert Bob Ronai about in our podcast series earlier this month). Incoterms are used to mediate trade across the globe, meaning that the importance of this update (since Incoterms 2010) cannot be overstated. As John W. H. Denton points out in the video accompanying the tweet from the ICC incoterms twitter page, “whether you are a freight forwarder in Singapore, a small business owner in Columbia, or a banker in the United States, the chances are you use the Incoterms rules”.
Twitter has emerged as a lively and exciting discussion platform for trade. Politicians, news organizations, and corporates now consider the website (and indeed, social media as a whole) an integral element of their operations. This virtual cross-section of the year’s trade developments shows as much. As we move into the next decade, it remains likely that Twitter will continue to grow, just as trade and trade finance grows and evolves along with it.