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Challenges, threats and opportunities for Australian international trade

International trade Productivity Australia Europe

Europe, in a global environment where international trade policy is increasingly determined by the tactics of populism and where any recognition of the value of closer integration between markets is being challenged daily, has moved from being a source of concern to a beacon of hope.

It wasn’t so long ago that the consensus view of Europe was that it was condemned to being a slow growth environment, with ever-worsening youth unemployment, an ageing population with generous social security and a huge structural inconsistency between the common currency and the absence of fiscal discipline to match that standard.

Added to that, was the north-south inequality of access to everything from education to opportunity - a source of much internal and external disquiet.

And the Global Financial Crisis put all this on very public display.

These problems are not all resolved.  But the resilience of the institutions and shared determination between the principal nations of continental Europe, combined with an effective central bank, have held Europe together in ways that many commentators once doubted was possible.

Brexit too, was said to be a big challenge for Europe, but so far it has not proven to be.  Again, the resilience of institutions and a shared determination has to be credited with higher respect.

From the Australian perspective, Europe perhaps today matters most as a source of relative stability in a world where there is precious little of that.

And where the commentary that most of us encounter daily treats international economic challenges similar to a major sporting event, like the Winter Olympics. One where Australia isn’t for the most part competing, but an occasional upset win or loss reminds us there is a fight for global supremacy going on somewhere over there.

This illusion of remoteness is a big mistake.

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