Global trade has always been a prominent theme at the World Economic Forum (WEF), held annually in Davos in the Swiss Alps. It will certainly dominate this year’s meetings.
From the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to the Taiwan Strait across which China threatens its island neighbour, trade navigation will be the talk of the town this week.
The situation in the Red Sea has been deteriorating ever since Israel’s war in Gaza, with Houthi attacks on ships disrupting international supply chains, prompting the recent US-British military response on Houthi positions in Yemen.
In Asia, there are growing Chinese threats to Taiwan after Lai Ching-te, the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party, was elected president of the island.
China considers him to be a dangerous separatist. If war were to break out, it would cost not billions but trillions of dollars.
If that weren’t enough, lest we forget, another war still rages on Europe’s eastern border. Russia and Ukraine remain locked in battle nearly two years after Russia’s invasion. The repercussions of this have so far been largely contained.
Read more: The war in Ukraine is far from over
There are green shoots. Inflation now finally seems to be under control. Worst-case scenarios regarding interest rate hikes appear to have been averted, as European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde and other leading central bankers believe.
Focus on Gaza
Of the hotspots, Gaza (and related problems in the Red Sea) are due to attract the most attention at Davos, thanks in part to South Africa’s noble lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel for its genocidal war on the Strip.
This is an unprecedented legal initiative against Israel as an occupying power. Israel claims it is acting in self-defence. Others claim it is collective punishment.