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A version of this article was published in Arabian Gulf Business Insights.

As the tectonic plates of global trade continue to shift, it is imperative that nations recognize the importance of new, fast-developing commercial trading blocs and harness them to their full potential. Amid these changes, governments in the Middle East have a unique opportunity to secure their positions in the global marketplace and propel economic growth in a world grappling with unprecedented challenges.

The spectre of permacrisis — characterized by prolonged conflicts, geopolitical tensions, looming recessions, and the threat of new pandemics — casts a long shadow over governments. Dealing with risk and uncertainty, embracing transformation, fostering agility, and forging strong partnerships with the private sector are no longer optional, but essential paths to resilience.

Fortunately, the evolving trade landscape offers fertile ground for such collaboration. Projects such as the New Silk Road and the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) create powerful platforms for regional cooperation and strategic partnerships. Countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), ideally positioned at the intersection of continents, can leverage their resources, geography, and strategic advantages to solidify their roles as pivotal nodes in these networks.

Future scenarios for trading blocs

Our new report, “Navigating The Future Shifts In New Silk Road Supply Chain,” outlines three potential scenarios for how new trading blocs could evolve: a regionalized economic bloc characterized by high integration and rapid transformation; a scenario with medium integration and high decarbonization; and a third scenario characterized by moderate integration and a focus on innovation. Regardless of the path that world governments take, the report highlights the Middle East’s strategic importance in this new trade order.

Historically, the Middle East has served as a crucial crossroads of commerce. Today, resource-rich countries find themselves well positioned to capitalize on this new paradigm. During international crises, their ability to stabilize global supply chains can position them as reliable partners, not just beneficiaries, within the global economic engine. This is especially important amid the climate crisis, which is making supply chains highly vulnerable to extreme weather events, according to the Global Risk Report 2024.

Navigating global risks and amplifying GCC influence through trade

However, navigating this landscape requires more than just a favorable geographic location. Proactive leadership and strategic positioning are vital. The Global Risk Report revealed livelihood crises as the second-most likely global risk, highlighting the need for economic diversification and job creation within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which can be facilitated by trade agreements and regional collaboration. Governments must actively engage in trade negotiations, foster partnerships within and beyond existing blocs, and implement policies that support seamless integration, according to the report. Participation in blocs and networks such as BRICS can amplify the influence of GCC countries on the global stage, particularly with respect to trade.

The impact of GCC countries’ participation in these trade constellations extends far beyond their borders. With their economic clout and strategic location, they have the potential to shape the very structure of global commerce. Their decisions influence investment flows, resource allocation, and ultimately, the prosperity of nations across the globe.

Emerging blocs and the surge of intraregional trade

Our report emphasizes this point. It highlights that under the “regionalized economic bloc” scenario, intraregional trade in the Silk Road could rise to 70% of total trade, demonstrating the significant impact these emerging blocs can have on global trade flows. In addition, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia will propel global trade from $21 trillion to $32.6 trillion by 2030, according to research from Standard Chartered Africa and Middle East.

Therefore, shaping the future of trade is intertwined with shaping the future of governments. Or in other words, we are moving from a situation where markets shape politics to a situation where politics shape markets. By embracing proactive leadership, strategic partnerships, and a commitment to regional and global collaboration, GCC countries can ensure their own economic success while also contributing to a more stable, interconnected, and prosperous world. This is not just an opportunity for economic gain, but a responsibility we must embrace collectively at this defining moment.

Read the original piece, here.