The Intersection of Geopolitics and Economics: Insights from Ian Bremmer

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Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group, is an analyst who specializes in assessing the impact that politics has on economic outcomes. When Bloomberg announced that it was making real-time Twitter feeds available through its information terminals, Bremmer’s Twitter account was one of the initial, pre-selected sources offered through the new service. In the current, decentralized global environment — one that trends toward increased fragmentation and uncertainty — Bremmer’s analysis of political developments, and the effects that they may have on financial markets, is particularly relevant.

In a Time magazine article earlier this year, Bremmer asserted that the Ukraine crisis shouldn’t be described as a cold war, and the reasons the label doesn’t apply are the same as the reasons the situation will deteriorate. Conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as similar conflicts elsewhere, have not been vital enough to galvanize a concerted, collaborative response from the world’s major powers. “There simply are not a lot of countries out there that are willing to push back,” Bremmer wrote. As a result, without an organized global response or, at the very least, a strong competing response between two powers, many areas of contention will continue to fester.

In an August email to Business Insider India, Bremmer wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin “called Ukraine’s bluff” by dispatching a convoy to the region. In the absence of a coordinated response from Western nations, Putin’s actions made it more difficult for the Ukrainian government to defeat separatist forces. As a result, according to Bremmer, “we’re back to the long game.”

A separate long game is playing out in Hong Kong as Chinese leader Xi Jinping enacts a reform agenda to make China’s economy more sophisticated and competitive. In a Reuters opinion column, Bremmer wrote that Hong Kong finds itself on the wrong end of Xi’s reform plan: “Hong Kong used to matter to Beijing economically, now it matters politically. That’s absolutely the wrong way around.” Xi is clamping down on political dissent and consolidating power as he enacts economic reforms, and Bremmer sees Hong Kong’s “Westernized nature” as a source of threatening political dissent in a time when Xi needs political unity at its absolute strongest.

Bremmer describes the current geopolitical climate as a “G-Zero world” — that is, suffering from lack of global leadership. “There are many countries now strong enough to block international action,” he wrote in the New Statesman, “but none is both willing and able to bring about lasting positive change.” In this environment, regional agreements to extend influence and expand trade ties have become more important. Bremmer sees this as “good news for those who believe in the power of trade to lift the entire global economy, because the opportunity costs are rising for those unwilling to come to the table.”

At the 68th CFA Institute Annual Conference in Frankfurt, Bremmer will discuss the geopolitical developments and their potential effects for investment portfolios. Online registration for the event is closed, but you can follow social media highlights from the event and watch select conference presentations online.

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The content of this site should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute.

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