This year marks the second year that the Thomson Reuters Institute has studied global trade management issues and the first year we have asked questions about environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues as they relate to global trade professionals and their work. Overall, many of the issues facing global trade professionals in 2023 are similar to the ones they faced in 2022. The difference is that companies have had one more year to adapt. The Russian war in Ukraine, ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China, retaliatory tariffs — all continue to affect supplies of energy, grain, and other commodities. Now, however, companies have had time to plan alternative sourcing strategies to minimize the impact of these challenges.
Ever-changing rules, regulations, and government trade systems represent additional challenges, but there are signs that more companies are investing in technological solutions that can help manage the increasingly intertwined relationship between companies and governments. Indeed, the results of this year’s survey suggest that most companies are gradually moving up the technology-adoption curve, and that more advanced forms of GTM technology — those that use AI and blockchain — are now within reach of more companies than ever.
The trend toward more extensive ESG reporting and disclosure requirements is also affecting global trade professionals, largely because concerns about carbon emissions, materials re-cycling, and human rights violations are directly connected to the supply chain. ESG data-gathering and reporting can now be added to the long list of responsibilities shouldered by global trade managers. On a more positive note, ESG reporting itself is intimately connected with a company’s values, ethics, and reputation, all of which corporate leaders are keenly interested in preserving. Consequently, ESG is another area where global trade professionals have an opportunity to demonstrate their value to the enterprise.
Finally, the talent and skills gap in global trade is still very much in evidence as companies scramble to recruit people with the rare combination of global trade expertise and technical training necessary to excel in modern global trade jobs. The inevitable result is that companies are leaning more on automation and outsourcing to fill skills gaps in their ranks and will continue doing so over the next few years In general, international companies involved in import/export activities are in a relatively strong position to meet the multitude of global trade and supply-chain issues that will almost certainly come their way in the next year or two, but there is no rest for the weary. Possible inflation, rising costs, transportation issues, sanctions, regulatory changes, and supply-chain snafus will continue to create a disruptive environment for trade professionals the world over. The only question is whether they will have the tools and resources they need to get the job done in the most efficient, effective, and environmentally friendly way possible.
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