The great trade unwinding | Financial Times

TikTok is the go-to social media app for American teens, the place where they post their latest dance videos, slam dunks, or — in the case of those who used it to try to thwart US president Donald Trump’s June rally in Tulsa — conduct their political activism.

It has also become the centre of the US-China decoupling story, one that began with equipment and chipmakers like ZTE and Huawei and is now centred on TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, which is being forced to sell the app to a US tech company, Microsoft.

All of this supports the idea that technology trade and investment patterns are likely to shift in the future. So far, that story has mostly been more rhetoric than reality. Despite headlines about trade wars, between 2014 and 2017, only around 7 per cent of global trade routes shifted, according to a McKinsey Global Institute analysis of UN Comtrade data. But according to a new MGI report on supply chains, changes are likely to speed up dramatically.

Thanks to myriad risks — from fractious politics to climate change and pandemics, or the growing number of cyber attacks and financial crises — shocks to global trade are becoming more frequent. Companies can now expect month-long disruptions to supply chains every 3.7 years. That means that over the course of a…

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