At Harris Bricken, we keep close tabs on what is happening around the world, and we know that our friends and clients do, as well. We are happy to provide this podcast series: Global Law and Business, hosted by international attorneys Fred Rocafort and Jonathan Bench, where we look at the world by talking with business leaders, innovators, service providers, manufacturers, and government leaders around the globe.
In Episode #91, we are joined by Gregor McQueen, Founder and CEO of McQueen Associates. This episode was recorded at the end of October 2021. Events since then are not addressed in this podcast. We discuss:
- What geopolitical risk means.
- The difference between black swans and gray rhinos.
- How McQueen Associates helps clients manage geopolitical risks.
- Thought leaders in geopolitical risk management.
- Diversification from China through the risk management lens.
- Pandemics and risk.
- Risks on the horizon.
- Listening, and watching recommendations from:
- My wish: Help me stop pandemics (TED Talk), by Dr. Larry Brilliant
- The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order, by Rush Doshi
- China Law Blog
- In particular, ‘Who Owns “Your” Overseas Factory and Why It Really Matters,’ by Dan Harris
- “Shelter Manufacturing in Mexico: Back by Popular Demand,” by Adrián Cisneros Aguilar
- ‘”Mexico Is the New China” and Manufacturers Are Moving There,’ by Dan Harris
- Nouri app
- The Taiwan Gazette
- In particular, ‘Thinking Outside the Pot: The Relationship Between Taiwan and the Steam Rice Cooker,’ by Qin Xian Yu (translated by Hon Yee Tong and edited by Sabrina Chung)
- The Taiwan Gazette
This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.
Fred Rocafort 00:07
Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other. The importance on the global stage of developing and developed nations waxes and wanes, while consumption and interconnectedness steadily increase all the while laws and regulations change incessantly requiring businesses to stay nimble. But how do we make sense of it all? Welcome to Global Law and Business hosted by Harris Bricken international business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort.
Jonathan Bench 00:37
And I’m Jonathan Bench. Every week, we take a targeted look at legal and economic developments in locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of international experts. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We covered the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.
Fred Rocafort 01:02
We hope you enjoyed today’s podcast. please connect with us on social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.
Jonathan Bench 01:23
Today we’re joined by Gregor McQueen, founder and CEO of McQueen Associates, LLC, which is an independent political risk advisory and planning firm. Gregor has been delivering geopolitical risk mitigation strategies for over 25 years. His current work is focused on developing new critical thought and holistic and more systematic solutions to improve resilience and sustainability outcomes for entities navigating geopolitics. Gregor welcome to Harris Bricken, Global Law and Business.
Gregor McQueen 01:50
Thank you for having me.
Jonathan Bench 01:52
Now, we’re gonna talk a little bit about what you do in your geopolitical risk management. But I’m always curious about the background, and we’d love to hear it from our guests better than than us reading your bio. So please tell us a little bit about where you grew up where you’re from, what got you interested in geopolitics and risk management? And, and probably also, I’m also very interested in what other kinds of people do you run into in this industry? And do they have similar backgrounds to you or not?
Gregor McQueen 02:19
Well, you can probably tell from my accent that I grew up in England. I actually graduated in metallurgy in material science from Imperial College in London. And at the time, I felt that the job options that were available to me were primarily highly technical and lab based. I wasn’t really too keen on that and had a real interest in global trade and investment projects, including what made them function or malfunction. I was fortunate enough to be introduced by a Royal Navy friend of my father’s to the Lloyds insurance market in London, and I was offered a position on a graduate training program that included political risk insurances. So I jumped on that. I specialized in those insurances for about 17 years, and then decided to pursue ways to help organizations where those insurances were less able to address the client needs. And that’s how I got into consulting and the counter political risk planning work that I do now. But that engineering training of looking at a problem in a methodical and systematic way, certainly continues to be hugely beneficial.
Fred Rocafort 03:31
So Gregor, turning to your work these days, when we talk about geopolitical risks, let’s let’s just break it down. For for our audience. What exactly are we are we talking about? I think that for many people, there’s an intuitive sense of what falls in that bucket. But probably there are other things that might not be as evident. But what are we talking about when we talk about a geopolitical risk?
Gregor McQueen 04:03
Well, there are multiple forms and variations of political risks. Geopolitical risks itself is really just the transnational nature of the risks. But of course, there are national political risks as well. They’re basically any governmental action or inaction that impacts an organization’s operations. I like to look at it in terms of risk types. We all know about Black Swans and gray rhinos. And you remember that Black Swans are rare, a hidden, and they’re highly improbable. And there’s no choice in how you respond to them. With gray rhinos, therefore, seeable, obvious, and highly probable, and most choices to respond are likely to be inadequate. While they’re often as risks they tend to be dismissed or ignored. Staying with that animal theme. I like to describe political risks as a combined jungle and rainforest of differing animals. There are the knowns and the unknowns. They’re all external disruptors, which are driven by human influences. Some examples can be government theft, such as confiscation, typically of assets. Contract breaches is another. For example, a Venezuelan Government under a contract may not pay for equipment that has been supplied. Other acts include trade disputes, such as the current US China disputes, or embargoes and tariffs, or the inability to convert trans convert and transfer currency, or currency devaluation cues or interactions as well as wars or other political risks as well. They tend to be the physical type, but they can also interrupt contracts. And then lastly, there’s also risks to employees such as kidnap and ransom, or threats or actual detention by authorities. political risks are generally challenging because they change constantly as governments change. And in the last 10 to 20 years, they’ve become much more complex and prevalent and impactful than those that I’ve just mentioned. They still exist today. But some examples that are more recent, include authoritarian regimes that provoke cycles of conflicts with coercion, sanctions, or other retaliatory actions, or data and technology use as political tools by governments for digital autocracy and protectionism. Disruption of supply chains is another, which can be as we’ve all seen recently, that can come from health regulations or travel restrictions. Then there are things like state sponsored cyber attacks or election interference through coercion or use of mis and disinformation. There’s a couple more recent types of political risks. One example was regarding the elections in Russia recently, it demonstrated how authoritarian states use censorship, or to enhance government control of the internet. The background was that in July, Putin signed a law applied selectively to tech companies like Google, with a daily audience of at least half a million people in Russia, requiring them to open offices in the country. Seems innocuous, right. However, in essence, after citing Moscow court rulings that declared the opposition leaders network as extremist, the courts began began leveling multimillion ruble fines against those tech giants for failure to ban what they called illegal content. The apps that they had identified challenges to incumbents at the pro Putin party for supporters of the jailed opposition leader Alex and Avani. So then the authorities threatened jail time for the tech employees. Apple and Google resisted at first, but then deleted smart voting apps from their online stores just before the election day. So while not a new tactic, new tactic, censorship and coercion features strongly for authoritarian states that typically restrict freedom of speech, religion, the press and the Internet, or public activism. It’s all about control and retaining power. The problem is that the number of auto auto critic countries is actually rising. According to a democracy report in March of this year, there are 32 countries that are threatening freedom of expression, which is up from 19 and 2010. And 68% of the world’s population, now living in autocracies, which is up from 48% in 2010.
Fred Rocafort 09:06
Gregor, what’s an example of a gray rhino?
Gregor McQueen 09:09
Sure, well, that’s a actually a good, interesting one. We tend to think of risks in categories and gray rhinos as one of them because most or a lot of political risks center around a peg governments, judicial unpredictability, as well as regulation changes, corruption and other forms of political violence. But in terms of gray rhinos, the pandemic is actually a really good example. You could have that or climate risk is another example. Both in terms of events that are foreseeable and coming at us, but we don’t really know how governments are going to react. Take climate risks, for example. You know, with everyone meeting in Glasgow this coming week, it’s not clear how much regular new government support there’s going to be in order to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. That’s one example.
Jonathan Bench 10:14
So I’m very curious how the insurance market interacts with these, with these events. So he had mentioned force majeure clauses, of course, Fred, and I write a lot of contracts in the international context. And so I’m very curious from your insurance background perspective, what are the kinds of things that can be addressed by insurance? And what are the things that insurance except for maybe a hefty Lloyds policy would not cover?
Gregor McQueen 10:39
Well, the insurance policies typically respond to a couple of the risks I mentioned at the beginning. There are the exploratory risks, relative to assets, they can also respond to contracts with governments, involvements in some, either in terms of performance or payment from a government. And then, also, in terms of general categories, I mean, they’re also the political violence, perils that insurance can respond to, there are things that they won’t really take care of. So for example, a chemical nuclear war, it’s not something that our Lloyd’s policy, even a Lloyd’s policy would cover. You know, something between the five major powers, for example, as well as a war is not really an insurable. It’s not a risk that most insurers would want to take on.
Jonathan Bench 11:42
So I’m curious, you’ve talked a little bit about how you view the world. And I think that if if, let’s say a client comes to you and says we’re going to develop operations in, say, North Africa, let’s say Sudan, Sudan is a hot topic lately. Right? So let’s say that a prospective client comes to you and says, we’re planning on doing some kind of development project in northeastern Africa, probably in the Sudan region. How would you talk around the risks? And how do you what’s kind of your initial pitch that you would give to them and say, okay, here are the services I offer are my company offers these, these services. And here are some of the things that are top of mind for me, if you’re thinking about entering this region, if you don’t want to use that example, that’s fine, you could pick another part of the world, but it’s just top of mind with me, because it’s always it’s always churning in that part of Africa.
Gregor McQueen 12:33
Right? We provide what I call counter political risk planning and advisory services. And you need to approach this with different tactics for different risks and different circumstances, obviously. So whether you’re considering an investment that is relative to a partnership, or perhaps involvement with a autocratic government, or a Democratic one, it doesn’t matter what part of the world you’re in, or specifically, the nature of your industry, if you’re a mining company, in Africa, then there are certainly specific aspects that you want to look at relative to that, or data services company or just manufacturing of consumer goods. We think it’s essential to approach these risks in a holistic and strategic way to improve the outcomes. We actually have a six part framework that includes identifying potential opportunities and risk categories. Because I think it’s important to rather than try and list every single risk in how you approach something, it’s more important to think of categories of risk, because you can plan ahead for the categories, whereas you might miss a particular risk. And obviously, that’s, that’s what you want to avoid. So one of the aspects of managing the risks is obviously rigorous and continuous collection of that information about whatever country you’re operating in, we’re going to operate in and potential indicators of the category problems that you might have identified. So that involves looking at signals and blocking out the noise that might be surrounding those signals, and the trends and assumptions that you’re making the drivers towards, what sort of risk might be happening or not happening, as well as those sort of buffers that could restrict what would be happening. The data needs to include social, economic and political information, and be obtained both internally from locals in the country. And also, obviously your own headquarters but include external sources like academic experts, and others. It should also include a deep stakeholder analysis of all parties, including all of the party partners, the counterparties involved in the project, the buyers, the suppliers, obviously, the customers and the local interests as well, that all that data helps provide early warnings of problems. The second factor I’ll mentioned is integrating all of that planning into your enterprise wide processes. You have to be proactive, with political risks, because allocating responsibility to a specific group within the company tends to side of the process, and that’s less effective. So forming a cross functional geo Strategy Group, if you want to call it that, and engaging the board and C suite to incorporate geopolitical risks into that strategic planning is really important. While incorporating a learning from history and data about the company, the country involved, it’s also really important to examine plausible political futures, just in the best approach to that organization’s strategic objectives. So that means combining geopolitical scenario planning with forecasting and incorporating it into your business planning. The scenario analysis helps clients generate plausible futures, and identify critical signposts that signal when those futures are more probable to emerge. forecasting, the likelihood of passing each song signposts, then assesses the relative likelihood of one future materializing over another and provides a quantitative measure, or percentage of probability, if you like, that can be tested for accuracy.
Fred Rocafort 16:46
Gregor, it’s easy to conceive of a scenario where a company is not proactive about addressing risks. I mean, we can we can I, we have lots of examples of that. And it’s an it’s conceptually easy to, to understand. But I’m interested in some of the success stories. And obviously, I understand that that you’re not going to be able to, to address these with with specificity. But to the extent that you can, would you be able to point to examples of situations and it doesn’t have to be a client of yours, right, it could be something more more general, but some of the situations where through proper risk assessment and management companies have been able to avoid the worst case scenarios in some of these challenging markets.
Gregor McQueen 17:49
Sure. One way to increase host country’s dependence on your local operation, for example, is to use non replicable technology, which is built into the production process itself, or intermediate product that is owned by your parent company or your home country operation. As an example, one oil drilling company used advanced technology that only a specially trained engineers could use. So that incentives for government officials to coerce the company were lower if then if the company had been using a generic technology that the locals could have operated themselves in the absence of the those engineers. And if technology can’t be used, sometimes external leverage can and it can be deployed effectively through lobbying your own government, especially when you’re operating in a country that does ally to your own government’s foreign policy. Alternatively, finding a source of reliance of the host country government, such as dependence on a particular material, or a particular fuel, or a finance source, and then using that influence over that dependency can be can be effective.
Jonathan Bench 19:13
Gregor, I’d love to learn about some of the thought leaders in your industry I feel like I guess I consider myself a budding geopolitical cyst, right. I love the interplay of, of the geography, politics, international events that impact each other all over the world. And even that, to some extent, all of the all of the churning that happens all over the world, right? It’s, it’s it’s hard to watch in certain areas, but it’s also fascinating to watch as well. But who are some of the Who are some of the thought leaders in your industry that that you look to some sources and of course, we’ll talk about other recommendations later but I’m just curious, you know, when on your on your LinkedIn feed on your Twitter feed, your newsletters you get in your email inbox, or some of the groups and individuals that you follow and and respect?
Gregor McQueen 20:01
Hmm, that’s an interesting one. Let me just have a think about that. I mean, there are, there are certainly all of the groups that, you know, there are the academic institutions that are subject matter experts in particular areas. And I would tend to go to them to help frame the right questions that one needs to ask about a particular operation or a country. But then there are also the think tanks that also can provide, or they do provide frequent reports and analysis of government policies. And so I would, I would include those a couple of examples, there are the Atlantic Council or CSIS. Obviously, there are many think tanks, but those are a couple of the ones that I follow.
Jonathan Bench 20:59
And which academic institutions, you know, say we’ve got students who are listening to the podcast that are interested in this because they love international affairs, and I think that this might be a great niche for them to focus on. What are some of the, are we talking Oxford, Cambridge, Berkeley, NYU, what are some of the institutions that they should be looking at?
Gregor McQueen 21:19
Well as the Hoover Institution at Stanford, and certainly Oxford, has a great political science program. Wharton also has a great sector for political risk. So the main institutions that you would expect to certainly have international affairs programs, but but also some of them have specific political risk analysis, and then courses that look at certainly risk management in general, but also some of them looking specifically at political risk.
Fred Rocafort 21:54
So Gregor, as you as you might know, both both of us are our China watchers, and it’s, it’s, it’s hard for us to, to get through any interview without without bringing up China. And as as, as I listened to you, it, it dawns on me that for for someone like me, for example, who is always following what’s happening in China, from from a particular perspective, from having lived there from having an interest in the country from, from, from working with, with clients who are doing business there, it’s, it’s actually easy sometimes to forget, or to neglect the, the risk element, perhaps I’m too invested in some of the discussions to, to look at things through through a proper risk assessment lens. For example, when you look at Chinese politics, it’s it’s easy to get caught up in the the personalities, and then the sort of historical significance of certain events. But of course, there’s there’s that there’s the risk calculations sort of operate on a on a different plane, and they’re related to all of this, but but obviously have a have a life of their own. So how would how would you approach China as a as a business proposition from this risk analysis perspective?
Gregor McQueen 23:29
Well, China is a very interesting country to operate in, as you both know. And it’s become particularly challenging. The reason I say that is because you know, there have been several examples. The H&M, clothing line is one but Nike as well, where companies are trying to balance operating in China, within the regulations that are there that are being the new regulations, as well as some that may be coming. And they find that it’s a challenge to walk the line of what regulations are in China and being asked by the Chinese sometimes to say support the one China policy or two to come out and be vocal against the events in Hong Kong last in 2019, to support the the Chinese government and they’re the regulators them, but at the same time, they have to also satisfy them investors and customers and an interest back at home. So walking that fine line is a particularly challenging thing in China. I I would say, the risks involved, you have to, as I say, company has to take a step back and be very systematic, systematic about how you approach it, because the risk may come out of left field. And, you know, from my perspective, the categories tend to be, I think there’s a sort of under underused relation between ESG risks and political risks, or ESG, issues excuse me and political risks. And by that, for example, I mean, you know, everyone’s everyone’s well aware of the environmental problems in China, and the pollution problems. But you know, for example, there was a Verisk Maplecroft. Environmental Outlook Reports last year, or this both this year and last year, this year, they ranked cities at risk, and their exposure to a range of environmental and climate related issues, which showed that primarily due to pollution 99 of the world’s hundreds 100 riskier cities are in Asia, including 43 in India, and 37. In China, in its 2020, Outlook, it specifically identified the manufacturing Heartland from risk of rising seas, and specifically, Gwangju and Dongwon, as the two major cities in the Pearl River Delta economic zone, that are most vulnerable to sea level rise. Now, there’s approximately $348 billion dollars or 20% of China’s GDP in that area, and about 7.8 million people who are in those high risk locations from sea level rise. So that being such a globally important manufacturing hub, it’s important to consider that, yes, it’s perhaps a medium term risk. But you know, I think, you know, the IPCC, for example, has re emphasize that this is a very, or should be a very front of mind, risk for people to consider whether or not governments actually go ahead and provide legislation that is going to meet the Paris Agreement, is really still open for question. But for accompany you, from my perspective, you have to consider the sea level rise in that that region, as to one of the major risks for the next 10, 40 years.
Fred Rocafort 27:53
Gregory, it’s, it’s interesting, you mentioned that I remember, as far back as 2005, 2006. At that time, I was I was working as a US diplomat in Guangzhou, and my office overlooks the Pearl River. And I remember that we were having conversations about some of the studies and projections that were coming out. And one of the things that others were pointing to was exactly this issue. I mean, the the port infrastructure on which China and specifically its its its industry in South China relied on that would that would be at risk, a lot of the a lot of the infrastructure and obviously, even at a government facilities, etc. Right. I mean, this was something that I mean, we had to deal with flooding on a regular basis. But back then, just a SS a, in the normal course of events. So So it’s interesting that that, this, that you bring this up, but at the same time at this, I also think, wow, it’s been 15 years. And I wonder if if there’s a you know, so you cannot say this is a new or newly discovered risk in any way yet. And let’s, let’s, let’s, let’s put the question this way. Are companies doing anything about this? And you bring up another great point, which maybe you can you can sort of address in your answer as well, which is that there’s there’s the government aspect of all this and what measures are going to be adopted by national governments and what kind of agreements are going to be to be reached? And and there might be frustration on the part of some as to how that is that is going but that is certainly not an excuse for for companies to to to ignore these these risks. So Um, I mean, it is there. We certainly hear a lot about these risks. I mean, it’s something that is increasingly being talked about in the news.
It was the classic gray rhino risk, right? Because you, you know, it’s out there. And there are they’ve been 15 years of delays about doing anything about it. China’s coal use is another example. You know, they are, they’re currently expanding that coal power plants, because of the power outages and the need to supply power to all the manufacturing operations. But that’s that’s an interesting are going to, I think going to be a real challenge for China in the next 10 or so years is actually balancing the demands for power, from manufacturing operations, with the requirements that are going to really be coming home, about having to make changes to environmental regulations in order to avoid things like rising sea levels.
Jonathan Bench 31:04
So let’s turn to a China alternative, we’ve been hearing a lot about, at least in the US about nearshoring onshoring. In Mexico has become much more prominent in conversations the last couple of years, in part due to the trade war, in part due to COVID. And the way it has impacted, especially global shipping issues. What are your thoughts on Mexico as an alternative to China in terms of geopolitical risk, availability of resources, including the resources required to build up Mexico’s manufacturing infrastructure more?
Gregor McQueen 31:40
Well, of course, there’s that time tested device that it’s never good to have all of your eggs in one basket. And that’s particularly true of political risks. So over the last 20 years or so China has become the world’s primary manufacturer. And and this is now viewed by many as a key political risk. President Biden recently described it well, I think. He said, we should never have to rely on one country for goods, especially when that country does not share our values. So companies have started rethink rethinking their manner frame, manufacturing locations, and reshoring, as you say, and nearshoring I think there’s more of a move towards what I call regionalization. And that you locate the manufacturing facilities relative to the major markets that you have. And obviously that may be that may involve your strategy for having operations for China, in China. And or it may be that you have a Southeast Asian alternative country as your main regional operation, perhaps in Thailand or Vietnam. And then you also have regional operations in South America or Mexico is supplying North America, and obviously, in Europe, too. So my perspective is that that analysis has really started before the pan pandemic hit, you know, the former administration and having ratcheted up the trade disagreement started the process. But then COVID, when COVID hit, companies started really looking at their regional strategies. And it’s partly a realization about the fact that you can’t have all of your eggs in a single China manufacturing basket, it’s just not a good rest strategy. Diversifying from China to alternate locations means you’re less prone to intellectual property risks or force technology transfer, you’re less prone to business interruption from power cuts that seem to be getting worse. You’re less prone to the shift in Chinese consumer demands, for example, their preference for domestic rather than foreign brands, and less prone to have state competitors who are competing against you. Some industries such as steel, shipbuilding, electric vehicles and semiconductors have seen significant government subsidies to Chinese companies. So you really have to prepare to have subsidized competitors back in back competing with you in your own markets. I think Mexico is is a certainly a very it’s certainly a high candidate, country for having operations to supply North America. There are some risks that you have to be concerned about. Obviously, it depends on the location but security risks for both your operational plants and people is one that you would probably want to have a look at. The other thing that I’ve you know, I’ve mentioned I think before, but you have to be able to monitor developments in so many countries when you’re looking at this, and information overload is actually part of the problems of, of analyzing political risk. But But coming back to it, you have to monitor the developments on an ongoing basis, because obviously, things change. And so for example, in Turkey, just last Thursday, the global money laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force of the G7, placed Turkey under surveillance for shortcomings in combating money laundering and terrorism financing. So, Turkey is one country, but it’s, that may be a candidate for supplying operations in Europe. But it’s also become a country that’s become more autocratic in the last five or 10 years. I just perhaps want to add that it’s important, obviously, to tailor the regionalization strategy of your operation is to your organizational strategic goals. And that profile may be for your sales in China, or having your operations in specific countries, but matching the regions that you need to around around the world.
Fred Rocafort 36:13
So Gregor, I imagine that COVID-19 has been an ever present topic in your work. But not only that, I imagine that it’s going to reshape the way that we look at at risk. I think that, for example, alluding to some of what Jonathan said earlier, I think that any any lawyer worth his or her salt, structuring transactions is going to keep this experience in mind for a very long time, right, probably until a time when some of our younger colleagues look at us. Oddly, for for continuing to bring up this this weird pandemic that apparently we experienced at some point. But I’d like to talk a little bit more about this. I mean, how, in what concrete ways is COVID Perhaps influencing your work? And how is it going to change the nature of what you do going forward? And perhaps more more practically? I mean, what what real risks might we might we be facing down the line? I think that one of the obviously, there are a lot of questions still outstanding regarding COVID and its origins, but certainly the even the the suggestion that we might have experienced this catastrophe as a result of some level of human manipulation. And of course, you know, we don’t know, we don’t have definitive answers on that yet. But even the suggestion of that, I would think, has to have a quite an impact on on the visualization of future risks.
Gregor McQueen 38:14
It certinaly has had a huge impact. But I just took comment about one that last aspect of what you said there, Fred, I think, I don’t think that we can say that it that COVID has resulted from from manipulation. This was something that really was foreseen or foreseeable for a very long time. You know, I’ve had a global pandemic on my watchlist since around 2003, when SARS first outbroke in, in Southeast Asia and then was largely contained there. But there are renowned epidemiologists like Dr. Larry Brilliant, and yes, that really is has made, he helped eradicate smallpox, and warned about the global pandemic very early on. In fact, he did a great TED talk about it called My wish helped me stop pandemics back in 2006. His mantra was early detection, early response, and that’s become mine relative to political risks. But if you have time, I certainly recommend you having a watch of his TED Talk. It’s it’s really inspiring, inspirational. But it shows to me that you know, there are risks that are forecasted. And you what you what is what is key is that you have to right ask the right questions, obviously, and who is capable of asking the right questions is one of the one of the key things but you have to really be able to have lateral and critical thought about a wide range of issues to see where the next thing might be coming from. And that’s, that’s part of the challenge of political risks. But part of the fun if you’re the ones who put it that way, but it’s certainly it’s certainly important to see are trying to see where things are going to come from COVID certainly has impacted how everybody works, you know, everyone moving to remote communication. But for example, before COVID, the previous administration here highlighted how one’s own government can significantly impact geopolitical risks in many different ways, withdrew from the TPP trade agreements and the Paris Agreement, as well as threatening to cut funds to the who the WTO and NATO businesses really seek to have stable operating conditions and stable judicial systems in order that they can have a certainty of what’s going to be coming. And that’s, that’s the prevailing wisdom really, is that you can do that from within multinational institutions, in a better way than pursuing isolationist policies that really don’t achieve what you’re trying to do. And I think I think you were asking me as well, what sort of risks I might be looking at now, if that’s I think I heard that in your question. But some of the ones that I’ve been looking at now would be reduced biodiversity and therefore, more frequent emerging infectious diseases. But on the other hand, to that we’ve got, you know, vaccine development has come so far, in terms of mRNA vaccines. So that while while there’s the risk of more infectious diseases, there’s the counterbalance or the buffer, if you like, of faster development of vaccines. But both of those, but the infectious diseases are likely to cause new disruptions to supply chains. Certainly, US, China, and EU tensions and disputes are risks that I am constantly watching, particularly over China’s state sponsored commercial activities and subsidies, as well as its impact on climate change that I mentioned from pollution. And its responsibility to act to pay for slower movement to Paris Agreement goals, if in fact, it does slow those promises that it’s made to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. I also expect to see some more problems over Taiwan, particularly big because President Xi has said so many times, that it must be and will be unified with the People’s Republic of China. Last Thursday, President Biden reaffirmed his commitment to defend Taiwan if China attacks. So while war may seem unlikely, corporations I believe, should consider the scenarios for themselves and develop business continuity and contingency plans a couple of other risks that I’m on there on my radar, and then I’ll stop there. Solar and Space weather is an interesting one. Coronal mass ejections and mass ejections, excuse me, that impacts the global satellite communications networks. And other is the reduction of sea ice, which is amplifying the strategic competition to the Arctic, and access to its natural resources. And then in in in along that vein, I’m also watching tipping points that accelerate rises and sea levels.
Jonathan Bench 43:55
Gregory, I’m glad that you ended with what’s on top of mind for you. That’s very helpful and certainly interesting to hear from someone in your point of view. We always like to close our podcast with recommendations from you from Fred from me, something that you’ve read recently or watched or listened to that has been impactful. Maybe some of your old favorites that you go back to this can be on point with our topic today or completely off point. What do you have for us?
Gregor McQueen 44:24
Well, aside from Dr. Larry Brilliant’s TED talk, I have two recommendations. The first is called is a book called The Long Game. It’s by Rush Doshi, and it is all about China’s grand strategy to displace American order. Anyone who has interest in China, I think certainly should should understand what the Communist Party’s playbook is and their strategy. This book has been painstakingly researched, and includes a large trove of rarely cited or previously inaccessible Chinese texts, and a systematic study of key puzzles in Chinese military, political and economic behavior. And the close look at the variables shaping strategic adjustment. Just a couple of sentences from the interaction. What are China’s ambitions? And does it have a grand strategy to achieve them? If it does, what is that strategy? What shapes it? And what should the United States do about it? These are basic questions for American policymakers. And I’d add also businesses that are grappling with this century’s greatest geopolitical challenge, not least because knowing an opponent strategy is the first step to countering it. And yet, as great power tensions are flaring, there is no consensus on the answers right now. This book attempts to provide those answers. My second recommendation is actually that I have to plug specific articles from Harris Bricken’s own China Law Blog. First is Dan Harris’, “Who Owns Your Overseas Factory and Why It Really Matters.” It includes a great list of articles of what to look out for when you’re moving your manufacturing from China. The second is “Sheltering Manufacturing in Mexico” by Adrian Cisneros, Aguilar and then finally, “Mexico is the New China and Manufacturers are Moving There.” Also by Dan Harris, those three articles were wonderful, I really found them. Very helpful.
Jonathan Bench 46:42
Excellent. Thank you for those recommendations. Fred, what do you have for us today?
Fred Rocafort 46:46
My recommendation is I have two related recommendations. One of them is a publication, and it’s called the Taiwan Gazette. And from what I can gather, most, if not all of their material is translated material. And one thing that I like about it is that it does have a pretty broad focus. It’s not just Taiwan, focused there. There’s material from from other countries as well. However, my specific recommendation is Taiwan related. And this is an article that date published, titled, thinking outside the pot, the bond between Taiwan and the steam rice cooker. And this really jumped out at me, because anyone who has Taiwanese friends or family members, spouses will understand the the outsized importance that the rice cookers, the importance that this has in Taiwanese culture. So I was this, this caught my eye. And it did turn out to be a pretty, pretty fun read. And as with so many other things, Beneath the apparent simplicity of these, of this appliance, there’s there’s a whole whole set of complex issues, right. I mean, there’s there’s actually a lot of engineering that that went into, into the development of these rice cookers. So highly recommend this. Jonathan, what what do you have for us?
Jonathan Bench 48:28
I’m recommending an app today. It’s called Nori, N o u r i, and it is a customer relationship management app for people like us. So those of us who are networkers, we, you know, we live and die by our network. We have a hard time keeping track of people on on Twitter, on LinkedIn, we meet them at conferences, and trying to organize them, you know, on our phone or on our laptops on a spreadsheet. And so I was at a venture capital conference in Salt Lake City, about a month ago, and I met the CEO, who’s a business school professor at BYU. His name’s Shawn Bear. They were promoting the app, they had a launch party just a couple of weeks ago that I attended. And it’s very interesting, right? It’s for if you’re the kind of person who likes people, but has a hard time keeping track of everyone because you have so many people in your network. This is the kind of app that you can use it you you have to put your takes your contacts from your phone, and then you can put them into circles, right work circles, church circles, friends, circles, family circles, and you can manage your manager interactions with them. You know, it could be it pulls in their social media feeds, so you can see what they’ve been talking about recently. You can set reminders for times to check in with them. You can message them right from the app, call them right from the app. So it’s it’s an interesting thing. And it’s the kind of thing that I had been thinking about and needing and had gone looking forward. And so fortunately, I came across it at this conference. And it’s exactly what what I need. I’m still in the early stages. Just of integrating with it, but it’s it seems to be very worthwhile and certainly as an easier way than trying to manage my spreadsheet between my my phone and my laptop. So it’s called Nouri, N o u r i, Nouri app, and we’ll provide the link. It’s in the app stores, but also provide a link on our blog copy for this episode. So with that, Gregor, we want to thank you for being with us today. We love talking to other people who think about risk the same way we do. We see risk everywhere. And then of course, having a level head and talking about it and categorizing it and trying to mitigate it. So thanks for your time. We hope we can check in with you again. And hope that hope that you enjoyed your time with us as well.
Gregor McQueen 50:43
I certainly do. Thank you very much for having me.
Jonathan Bench 50:48
We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode, we look forward to connecting with you on social media to continue discussing developments in global law and business. This podcast was produced by Harris Bricken, with executive producer Madeline Williams music composed by Stephen Schmidt. Tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.