For The Right Place, Inc.’s July session of its new Navigate 2020 webinar series, Sonja Johnson, Executive Director of the GVSU Van Andel Global Trade Center gave a brief overview of the current state of global trade.

Johnson concisely summarized the 2019 World Trade Statistical Review from the World Trade Organization (WTO), listing out their priorities. Data showed that merchandise exports grew by 10% over a 10-year period of time, while telecommunications grew by 15% over the same period.

One area of interest, Johnson noted, was how developing economies in Asia, such as Vietnam, the Philippines and India are playing an increasing role in global value chains. Another was the WTO’s initiative to work more intentionally on methods of measuring digital trade growth, which is a continuously growing sector.

Following her presentation, Johnson moderated a panel of three West Michigan executives who deal heavily with global trade:

  • John Kennedy, President & CEO, Autocam Medical
  • Eddy Schmitt, Senior Vice President - Americas, Steelcase
  • Jim Teets, President & CEO, ADAC Automotive

When asked about the benefits of globalization, Schmitt noted that growth has certainly been a key driver for Steelcase to pursue global sales, as well as innovation. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, though, the company found itself appreciating the resiliency it has developed by having operations on a global scale. As world economies began shutting down, Steelcase found itself ahead of the U.S. curve. The company had already been tackling the unprecedented challenge of economic activity grinding to a halt in places it has an international presence, like Asia and Europe. As the waves of the crisis continued to batter the globe, Steelcase found its resiliency increasing significantly as markets in other parts of the world began trending upward again as the U.S. has lagged behind.

The pandemic is likely to have some lasting effects on the panelists’ businesses as well. Teets predicted that even in a post-pandemic world, many companies will shift to virtual model and gravitate away from instances involving lengthy business travel when video communications would suffice. Kennedy noted that the easier access to international business markets – in a digital way – will likely allow for some easing of international competition as well.

Check out the full webinar recording below to hear more of the panel’s conversation surrounding globalization and identifying opportunities amid these challenging times:

Download Johnson’s presentation deck here.