FarmLink Welcomes Jacob Shapiro to our guest blogger series
This week, Jacob Shapiro, geopolitical analyst and owner of Perch Perspectives, is answering our questions about geopolitics in relation to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We sincerely thank him for his time and incredible insights.
You might remember Jacob Shapiro’s geopolitical presentation from Grain World 2019. The world he described then has become somewhat a reality now. At the time of Grain World, no one had heard about COVID-19 or knew the impact it would have on the economy. We’re living in a different world and who better to shed some light on what is going on than Jacob Shapiro.
Mr. Shapiro, What kind of permanent changes to society can we expect from COVID-19?
A difficult question to answer, as I think it will vary from community to community. I confess that I find it hard to imagine us gathering for a buffet dinner after a day of speeches in a room with hundreds of strangers – and sharing sips of different kinds of delicious Canadian craft beer to boot – anytime soon. In my own daily life I can tell you that I am no longer playing pick-up basketball at the nearby park, thereby depriving me of a much needed outlet for the daily stresses of life, and saving young American basketball players the humiliation of me banking in hook shots off the glass in their faces.
In all seriousness, I don’t view COVID-19 as a disruptive event in and of itself. COVID-19 is an accelerant: it is going to hasten changes that were already in process. Also, as in any crisis, COVID-19 has reduced options for change (more on that tomorrow in the question on U.S.-China relations). The trends that I expect COVID-19 to accelerate are multipolarity, economic decoupling, strategic competition, and government interventionism.
I think for example it is fair to say we have reached the high-water mark of globalization. Globalization is a past tense phenomenon. Supply chains, which for so long were concentrated on China because of how cheap, efficient, and reliable Chinese production was, are going to be reoriented. We are going to care a lot more about where we get things from and where we sell things to – and that “where” is going to be decided by political relationships instead of by the economics of comparative advantage. The state is going to play a much bigger role in managing national economies, as countries that can afford to make sure they are never dependent on a potential rival for things like surgical masks, ventilators, or pesticides will spend the money necessary to relieve that dependency. Biotech, food, connectivity – governments are going to become much more hands-on in all of these areas. When national security is the bottom-line, there’s no dollar amount from which governments will shy away.
Eventually we will have a COVID-19 vaccine, but the world that we will go back to living in is going to be more suspicious, more competitive, and more nationalistic. I made the case at Grain World that we were already headed in that direction, but COVID-19 has accelerated those underlying processes. I was not expecting some of the geopolitical developments of recent months to emerge for years, perhaps even a decade. That’s why forecasting is such a tricky business: it is one thing to get the trajectory right, but it’s quite another to get the timing right, especially when it comes to something as unpredictable as COVID-19.
Mr. Shapiro has been busy since Grain World: he recently launched a new business and political consulting firm called Perch Perspectives. You can contact Mr. Shapiro directly via e-mail
([email protected]com) or on Twitter or LinkedIn.
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