Uncertainty about the future of the global economy has roiled stock markets in recent weeks (not to mention the operations of global companies), but what’s scheduled to hit in March could be worse than anything we’ve seen so far.
To start, a last minute reprieve just extended what was supposed to be a March 1 deadline in the trade war between the U.S. and China. If negotiations falter, the U.S. is planning to raise tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports to 25% from 10%, and China is expected to retaliate. U.S. administration officials have specified targets to be addressed, including fixing broad, longstanding problems with the Chinese economy, like its dependence on intellectual-property theft and government subsidies. As we saw with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, the U.S. is prepared to walk away from negotiations which are not proceeding satisfactorily.
Also in March, the United Kingdom will be lurching towards the March 29 deadline to officially exit the European Union. It’s unsure whether members of parliament will approve the proposed terms, and if not, a “no deal” Brexit will be extremely disruptive. Uncertainty over the mechanisms by which the deadline might be extended will force many companies to plan for a hard Brexit.
In a worst case scenario, “markets will likely fall substantially, corporations could lay off workers and cease investing in expansion, and consumers may end up paying for both of these,” says Sam Natapoff, a former official with the U.S. Department of Commerce and New York state trade advisor.
Overall, U.S., China, and the EU are the largest economies by gross domestic product in the world; any hit to trade in any of them is going to have global repercussions.