Is globalism now a spent force?

We have for many years recognised that the era of globalisation is over and that the world is becoming more local and regional. The never-ending trade dispute between the USA and China is just one of many pieces of evidence to support the thesis that ‘globalism’ in all its forms is now a spent force. It is obvious that the major global trade related industrial sectors are set to suffer from this trend. What is often ignored is that the era of deglobalisation will have long term benefits across a number of industries. These make up some of our preferred long-term themes.

One of our longest running themes has been the new energy economy. It might not be immediately obvious how this relates to de-globalisation. Globalisation was, to a large degree driven by cheap fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the key to long distance transportation and therefore offshoring replaces developed market labour with cheaper emerging market labour and transport costs. Renewables generally produce electricity which is a poor transport fuel, as batteries are heavy compared to fossil fuel. However, renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels for most purposes. Therefore, if transportation is becoming relatively more expensive and inefficient then the attraction of local production close to the end market becomes much greater. We see an economy where energy is getting progressively cheaper, which is good for growth, but where transportation is relatively less attractive as long-distance transport will continue to rely on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.

This trend supports another of our themes, industrial automation and robotics. Greater domestic production will require a higher level of automation as cheap emerging market labour is replaced by a more expensive and skilled developed market labour, supported by robots and other new technologies. In the long term we expect manufacturing to become cleaner, highly automated, highly customisable and close to its customer. Recently, while capital investment has been relatively low, we haven’t been emphasising this theme in portfolios, but it is likely to be an ongoing background theme for some time to come. If we see a cyclical reacceleration, it is an area which will undoubtedly become more important to our portfolios.

Another impact of deglobalisation has been an emphasis on relatively self-reliant economies for our emerging market exposure.  Rather than focussing on export driven economies in South East Asia, we have held Indian equities which is an economy largely driven by domestic consumption rather than exports to the developed world. This has meant it has been largely unimpacted by the trade wars and the significant reconfiguration of supply chains that is taking place in an era of deglobalisation.

The big loser from deglobalisation is, unfortunately, Europe. Exports from Germany have been the big economic driver for some time. These exports have, in recent years, been very directed towards China and this is a major cause of the slowdown in Europe currently. Europe has always had a relatively weak domestic consumption sector hence the recent suggestion that fiscal policy might rekindle economic growth.

We have been focussed on deglobalisation as a theme for some years now. Recently, it has become a major market theme around the trade wars. We think it is wise to think beyond the immediate negative impacts and seek out some of the positive opportunities from a reconfiguration of the world economic system.


The value of stock market investments will fluctuate and investors may not get back the original amount invested.

Investments in emerging markets are potentially higher risk than those in established markets.

Forecasts are not reliable indicators of future performance.

Important Information

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Source for information: Miton as at 11/09/2019 unless otherwise stated.

The views expressed are those of the fund manager at the time of writing and are subject to change without notice. They are not necessarily the views of Miton and do not constitute investment advice.

Miton has used all reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in the communication, however some information and statistical data has been obtained from external sources. Whilst Miton believes these sources to be reliable, Miton cannot guarantee the reliability, completeness or accuracy of the content or provide a warrantee.

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