Navigating International Uncertainty

In a world where the only constant is change, the landscape of international business stands at a critical juncture. As we turn the pages of recent history marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine conflict, it’s evident that unforeseen events continue to shape the global economy in profound ways. How can businesses navigate this sea of uncertainty? This is the pivotal question for a panel I’ll be moderating at the upcoming Florida Bar International Law Section’s iLaw2024 conference, to be held in Miami on February 16. Titled A Changing World Order: Impacts on International Business, the panel will delve into the evolving world order and its impact on international business, examining the emergence of new alliances, the rise of economic nationalism, and the crucial role of legal counsel in steering businesses through these uncharted waters.

While the world order is always changing to some degree, the past few years have been a whirlwind of unforeseen events – from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Ukraine war – each with profound consequences for international commerce. While most of us certainly hope that won’t be the case, it’s unrealistic to expect that in the next ten years we will not see dramatic events with far-reaching, negative consequences like the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine – even if we can’t predict what those events will be.

This inevitable uncertainty brings with it the risk of us assuming that, as Vlad Vexler puts it, because “we can’t predict what transformational but unforeseeable events will occur … we can assume that no unpredictable, unforeseeable, transformational events will occur.” Yet history makes clear that this is a mistake.

It’s worth recalling that much of what has happened since seemed highly unlikely in 2014, yet little was unimaginable. COVID lockdowns in massive cities like Wuhan were shocking but the fear of something like that happening was present in the minds of some of Guangzhou’s residents during the 2005 H5N1 scare. As for the trade war, resentment over China’s trade practices had been building for a long time. Without doubt, the impositions of tariffs on a wide range of Chinese goods caught many by surprise, but the fact that some action was taken by the United States was hardly surprising.

As we anticipate a dynamic discussion at the iLaw2024 conference, it’s clear that the role of business lawyers is more crucial than ever in guiding clients through the labyrinth of global uncertainty. We cannot foresee every twist and turn in the international business landscape, but we can equip ourselves with the wisdom gleaned from past events and the flexibility to adapt to future challenges. Our panel promises to offer insightful perspectives on these pressing issues. Stay tuned for key takeaways from this engaging dialogue, which will not only illuminate current trends but also chart a course for navigating the unpredictable tides of international business. The future may be uncertain, but our preparedness need not be.

If you’re interested in attending iLaw2024, please reach out or check out this page for details.