The United States’ relationship with the world economy is changing dramatically. Forget the old world order of the U.S acting as the world’s policeman and chief trade partner. The future will feature the U.S. acting more independently. So how will this affect your business and the U.S. economy?
To find the answers, I consulted with geopolitical expert Peter Zeihan and author of The Absent Superpower. Zeihan’s book established four trends businesses should be watching for in the new world order.
Fewer exports, cheaper imports
In the coming years, U.S. companies will trade less with Europe due to demographic trends. Demographically, Europe’s population is inverting. There are more older people than younger people in Europe, which will provide challenges for European businesses. Since older people tend to save money while younger people fuel consumption, there will be fewer people buying homes, cars, and other durable goods.
With fewer younger people buying goods in Europe, the U.S. will do less trade with countries across the Atlantic. Likewise, Europe will have to lower their prices on exported goods to maintain U.S. trade.
Cheaper energy for the U.S.
The shale revolution has changed the world energy balance. The U.S. used to be dependent on crude oil from Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for energy needs. Shifts in oil prices could shake the U.S. economy.
However, with the shale revolution, the U.S. has more energy resources than ever. Right now, there is so much natural gas that companies have stopped looking for it and sometimes sell it at below-market costs to get rid of it. When it comes to oil, the U.S. has found so much it will become a net exporter in five years.
U.S. businesses will benefit from lower costs due to inexpensive energy, be less affected by foreign oil prices, and consumers will have cheaper goods.
More expensive money
The days of cheap money are ending. Lower interest rates have been sustained in part due to U.S. age demographics. As Baby Boomers got older and closer to retirement, most of their income went into investments. Their abundant investments in the market helped fuel cheap money.
However, this period of Boomer investment is ending. Once they retire, Boomers will start withdrawing money from the markets. In the next three years, Zeihan sees the costs of capital quadrupling. If you want to purchase property, buildings, or expensive equipment, the best time to do so is now. Money will never be cheaper than it is today.
Less competition from abroad
Large economies like India, China, and Brazil are reaching critical stages. All three countries grew at astonishing rates in the past decades, becoming large economic players in the world economy—but that is coming to an end.
Brazil, China, and India are now all overleveraged. These countries have more debt than is sustainable. In all likelihood, they will follow Japan’s path of an economic crash with no recovery. Once these economies collapse, they will no longer provide a stable trade market. Focus instead on the North American markets, where Mexican and American millennials will fuel the U.S. economy for years to come.
So, if you’re looking ahead for your business in the next five years, plan for less European exports, cheaper U.S. energy, more expensive money, and less competition from China. It may be time to narrow your focus on North America.