Strategic competition on the global political stage may have far-reaching implications for shipping, the managing director of the World Economic Forum and former Norwegian defence minister Espen Barth Eide has warned.
For 20-25 years the Western way of conducting business had predominated, but was now being challenged by three threats, he told the opening conference of Nor-Shipping in Lillestrom, Norway, today.
The first threat he identified is posed by the Ukraine conflict and the clash between the West and Russia.
The second threat is from the Middle East, where chaos and competing orders form a complex and volatile situation. The final threat is from tension in the South China and East China seas, Eide said.
But he emphasised that the question was not about the return of the Cold War, as these conflicts are not clashes between competing ideologies. “However, they may lead to the return of a situation experienced during the Cold War era, whereby who trades with whom and who invests where are dictated also by political rather than purely commercial considerations,” Eide said.
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As major Asian countries, such as India and China, import increasing quantities of oil from the Gulf, their interest in the political development of that region is on the increase, he explained. At the same time, the West is becoming less dependent on that region for its energy needs, which could result in a somewhat decreased interest in the affairs of that region.
The Russian leadership has indicated an interest in developing closer political ties with China, but Eide said this was not a two-way street, as China was likely to aim for a global rather than regional base of influence.