Talk of currency war is in the air, while China and Japan are skirmishing in the East China Sea. In the U.S., trade is taking some blame for the hot-button issue of the year: inequality. Emerging markets such as Brazil and Turkey swooned over the Federal Reserve’s plans to cut back bond purchases. Banks say regulators are balkanizing finance by requiring each local affiliate to have the capital to stand on its own.
Leaks about surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency have caused hard feelings among allies and rivals alike, with the spying scandal hurting U.S. suppliers of cloud computing as countries opt to keep data based at home.
Without violating trade rules, countries have found ways to close borders. Australia now bans overseas storage of electronic health records. Argentina requires foreign luxury automakers to offset their imports of cars with exports of local products, such as Malbec wine, all in the name of “trade balancing.”
Some companies are reacting by going home. Actavis Plc, the second-largest generic drugmaker, plans to end its operations in China because doing business there “wasn’t worth the aggravation, the frustration, or the concern,” Chief Executive Officer Paul Bisaro said this week.
Investment controls and antitrust rules are sometimes “intimidating people from doing cross-border deals because of risks today that didn’t exist before,” said Thomas Vinje, chairman of the global antitrust practice in the Brussels office of law firm Clifford Chance.