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Vietnam Records Highest Growth in Asia So Far This Year

Source: Natixis, Bloomberg

Note: Countries on x-axis as follows: Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, China, Hong Kong

Vietnam GDP grew nearly 4% in Q1 2020 — representing the highest growth among all Asian countries. This is due in part to its swift response to the COVID-19 crisis and avoidance of a prolonged lockdown, according to a report from Natixis. Vietnam experienced zero reported deaths from COVID-19 and only minor supply chain disruption. The report’s authors even predict the country will be able to avoid a recession in 2020.

Although COVD-19 emphasized Vietnam’s resilience in a time of disruption, the country could encounter challenges in the long-term from its weak domestic capacity to access global value chains and its dependency on China to fuel its export operations, the report says. 

However, the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), ratified in June 2020, represents a massive opportunity for Vietnam, with its exports to the EU growing 11% year-over-year, and will further boost the county’s presence as a leader among its Asian neighbors. The report’s authors expect this trade deal to secure Vietnam’s “status in Southeast Asia as a trade and investment friendly hub to the world.”

Public in Rich Nations Feel Optimistic About Future Crisis Responses

Source: Pew Research Center

The majority of respondents in Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and France feel optimistic about future public health emergency strategies from their government, according to Pew Research Center. 

Nearly eight-in-10 respondents said Germany has handled the coronavirus pandemic successfully. Despite their optimism, the American public reported a 6% drop in approval rating for their country’s response to COVID-19 from June to November. Ideology and the current status of the economy played a major role in how respondents rated their country’s response to the coronavirus.

As countries around the world ponder how to ramp up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, few respondents found it acceptable for their government to implement mandatory vaccination measures. The U.K., which had the third-highest vaccination rate worldwide, was the only exception, with 60% of respondents stating they would accept a vaccination program. Pew found that trust in national government is associated with more acceptance of a government-required program.

Trust in Businesses Rose During COVID-19 Crisis

Source: Edelman Trust Barometer

Trust in businesses grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, and business remains one of the public’s most trusted institutions, according to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer. However, public trust declined in most industries — with technology, fashion, professional services and automotive seeing the most significant reversals. 

Since business is more trusted than the government and media, 86% of the public now expect CEOs to take the lead in addressing societal issues — such as the pandemic’s impact, job automation and local community challenges. 

COVID-19 has added to the public’s personal and societal fears, with many worried about the future of the workforce. For example, the majority of Trust Barometer respondents are alarmed by the rate at which companies could replace human talent with artificial intelligence.

ESG Issues Are Getting More Attention From Directors

Source: Global Network of Director Institutes (GNDI), 2020-2021

Over 60% of global business directors surveyed said that COVID-19 accelerated their focus on ESG, sustainability and stakeholder value issues. Out of 2,000 respondents, the majority agreed that risk-scenario planning and decision-making needs to involve outside experts, according to the latest GNDI survey.

This increased interest in ESG values correlated with other highly ranked trends throughout the survey. For instance, 63% of directors expect COVID-19 to increase the competition for talent. Past surveys showed how companies with better ESG performance are likely to have both better employee engagement and greater attractiveness to prospective talent. Over half of respondents also believe there will be a growing emphasis on corporate purpose and board diversity. 

Just 17% of directors surveyed were satisfied with their response and ability to provide oversight during the pandemic. Although directors can learn from their response, they can also work with their management teams to prepare for future workforce changes — social and economic. By doing this, companies will be more equipped to absorb the shocks from these risks.

China Receives the Most Foreign Investment in 2020

Source: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

China surpassed the United States for the first time as the largest recipient of global foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020. China attracted an estimated $163 billion, compared to $134 billion in the United States. Global FDI flows in 2020 were an estimated $859 billion compared to $1.5 trillion in 2019, according to UNCTAD. 

China’s success was led by a steady recovery in GDP growth and effective government programs that stabilized investment during the first lockdown. East Asia and South Asia reported growth as well because of early rebounds in Hong Kong and a growing digital economy throughout India. West Asia, however, did not experience similar trends, as the region’s economy was devastated by the drop in oil prices.

The COVID-19 pandemic suppressed all investment activity — M&A deals, greenfield investment and cross-border finance deals. Global FDI flow is expected to remain weak in 2021. Although GDP growth and trade are expected to resume growth, investors will proceed with caution. 

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