Global trade: big picture – small world
UPS study

Global trade: big picture – small world

Year-end-reflections of a citizen of “one world” and “small world” on trains, ear phones, pictures, crises, and surprising export insights.

Featuring the strange remainder of Movember on my face, I am writing this while travelling by Intercity Express train to the House of Logistics and Mobility (HOLM) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. My headset delivers Ragna Schirner’s fabulous “Georg-Friedrich-Händel-Concerti” in amazingly crisp sound quality, and my mind is filled with anything but “end-of-the year” reflections.

I’ve just scanned my social media feed with pictures of friends in more or less exotic places and filled with thoughts about second-hand encounters with the refugee crisis and about the latest terror attacks. Reading on about more or less well-thought-through options to respond to these crises on a global level I could not help but wonder how borderless our world has really become from this perspective. 

And while browsing through all of this, I’ve also come across a new survey by the big logistics player UPS. It’s titled “2015 European SME Exporting Insights Study”. What better topic to fit my “borderless” thoughts than “export insights”? Because what may initially seem like a strange path from the high-speed train, “espressivo” earbuds, and emotions about refugees and terrorism to a new export study by UPS, actually all belongs together, doesn’t it? 

Aren’t these perfect examples for pieces of our one global economy, our “one world” that melts borders and becomes “a small world” – a world of which we all have begun to become citizens by now? One global economy, one small world that we need to develop to build fair, secure, and stable environments. Hmm, you know, maybe I’m ready for “year-end-reflections” after all ;-).

Global trade: big picture, small world – keeping the balance

I think this may actually be one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century: understanding and supporting both the small world and the big picture, and keeping the balance between all involved facets. 

At AEB, we’re in the process of redefining our own role with this in mind, contemplating new ideas on how to serve not only our customers and employees, but also deliver benefits in the wider scheme – as a responsible member of our “global society”. And as you may guess – our specific area of engagement will be – and certainly must be – global trade. I’ll share a bit more about what this means next year, when crude thought has formed into more tangible results…

Back to the small world part of global trade… the UPS study

The survey focuses on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and features responses from over ten thousand SME owners and directors, across 7 countries and 4 industry sectors. It’s really worth the read. Coming from my “borderless” contemplations, however, one bit really caught my eye: the section on ”perceived barriers“ to exporting. Considering the large number of participants from exclusively EU countries, two things truly astounded me:

  1. Export regulations and customs procedures are still listed in the top 3 obstacles to export growth. 
  2. Internet security dropped out of the top 3, while the physical safety of goods climbed to the pole position. 

Both findings are – IMHO – a bit puzzling, and seem somewhat anachronistic to me…

Screenshot from:
Screenshot from:

Export regulations and customs procedures are still obstacles? Really?
Wow. IT services for handling export regulations and operating customs procedures have been around in every European country for more than ten years now. Believe me, we checked it! 

Nonetheless: the survey results indicate that these solutions are either not visible enough in our small world or they are still not really meeting the needs of SMEs.

Whaaaat? Internet security dropping out of the top 3?

Well, this also somewhat surprises me. In this area, the race for optimization has only just begun. Data security, business continuity, cyber safety – there is still a lot ahead of us. I would have expected this year’s discussions and rulings on the “safe harbor” agreement alone, for example, to have sparked more concerns about Internet security as an export obstacle.

“Physical safety” is the new kid on the survey’s block

Thinking back to our concerns about terrorism as global citizens of a small world, it’s no surprise on the other hand, to see physical safety rank high in the UPS survey. And maybe its pole position simply reflects the growth of challenges and threats around safe movements of goods on a global level so tremendously, that concerns such as Internet security slightly fade in comparison, without necessarily reflecting respondents’ indifference towards it generally. UPS, of course, is a global logistics provider delivering global transportation services…, though, I certainly do not mean to imply a biased approach to the study – I very much value input delivered by UPS’ industry studies.

Anyway: three interesting things I’d like to point out

  • There still is a big market for global trade management optimization and solutions in Europe
  • Safety and security remain major concerns – now and going forward

And this is closely linked to my last and most important point in all of this:

  • We only just started to understand what it means to establish a small world in balance

How about you? How do you feel about this? Looking forward to hearing from you in any of our various channels on LinkedIn or XING.