Uncertainty, weakness and politics -- key words for 2012 world economy

Source:Xinhua Published: 2012-12-14 18:00:08

"Uncertainty, weakness and politics" are the three words Sir David Wright, vice chairman of British bank Barclays, chose to describe the world economy in the outgoing year.

"2012 global economy has faced many headwinds, with the slow and somewhat disappointing European Union (EU) development to resolve the debt issue in year beginning, and US fiscal cliff at the year end. The market movement has also been quite volatile," Wright said in an interview with Xinhua on Thursday.

The global economy has been weaker than what was forecasted by most economists and international organizations, such as International Monetary Fund (IMF), at the end of last year.

The sluggish recovery of the world economy still faces many uncertainties including the ongoing European debt crisis, the imminent US fiscal cliff and the economic slowdown in major emerging economies.

Apart from these economic woes, Wright said the world economy has also suffered from political interventions which have proved ineffective in solving the problems the world faces.

In the eurozone, rounds of negotiations and summits failed to bring the single currency area back on track, and its southern members are still striving to keep afloat. In the Untied States, with political rows splitting the Congress, a 600-billion-dollar fiscal cliff looms, threatening to tip the economy back into recession.

With no immediate end in sight, the three-year-old European debt crisis poses the biggest risk for the world economy. Wright said the deep-rooted problem with the euro is when it was devised, there was no mechanism to exit it.

To end the current crisis, eurozone countries should undertake more integrative measures such as forming banking and fiscal unions, he added, noting it is extremely difficult and highly political.

"The single currency will carry on, but will continue to bump along," the banker pointed out.

As for China's economic performance, Wright praised the government's macro-economic policies for enabling a soft landing. According to Barclays' projection, China will post a 7.6-percent GDP growth this year.

However, China will never return to a double-digit growth seen in the last decade, Wright said. "A slower growth rate between 7 to 8 percent would be China's new normal."

Speaking of the roadmap presented by the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China to double both GDP and per capita income by 2020, Wright said the plan would influence the world economy in several ways.

First and foremost, he said, China would be a more important market for foreign manufacturers and traders as it re-balances its economy between investment and consumption. The growth rate of Chinese demand for base metals may decline while demand for consumption-related commodities may well accelerate.

As China steps up industrial upgrading, the world's second largest economy would see more urge for outbound investments. "That is a natural phenomenon for all economies as they develop," he said.

As Britain's ambassador to Japan in the 1990s before joining Barclays, Wright witnessed the boom of Japanese outbound investments. "The same thing already has been happening in China and would grow a great deal," he said.

China has spent a record-high 57.2 billion dollars on outbound acquisitions this year, including the latest China National Offshore Oil Corp.'s 15.1-billion-dollar purchase of Canada's oil and gas producer Nexen, according to data firm Dealogic.

The burgeoning trend provides huge opportunities for Barclays, a multinational banking and financial services company headquartered in London. "If Chinese manufacturers and banks want to open plants and branches in the United Kingdom, we will be very keen to help," Wright said.

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