The White House is “100 per cent certain” of striking a trade deal with the UK. Having visited Washington last week, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is basking in President Trump’s prediction of a “very big and exciting” free-trade agreement.
As we move toward Brexit, forging trade links elsewhere makes sense. Helping UK exporters sell into the 80pc-plus of the global economy outside EU sends a powerful signal during these Article-50 talks. An agreement with the world’s biggest economy would be a good start. And to think – Trump’s predecessor had us “at the back of the queue”.
What’s the fastest growing economy in the European Union? Could it be the UK? Or maybe the star performer is Poland, Bulgaria or one of those other East European upstarts?
Actually, by a long chalk, the fastest-growing EU economy is the Republic of Ireland. Seen as a basket case just a few years ago, Ireland has now achieved not only a stellar recovery but also a deep fiscal retrenchment.
“What is a Minsky Moment, anyway?” asks Gerry Stembridge, a razor-sharp Irish comedian. “I’ve been reading about them in the papers and have often wondered”. Stembridge is putting the question to Paul McCulley, Chief Economist at Pimco, the world’s largest bond fund with over $200bn under management. Among the ten most influential economists on earth, McCulley is sporting a T-shirt and jeans.
If that’s not odd enough, the two men, Celtic comic and American financial whizz, are on stage in a theatre in Kilkenny, a bijou provincial city in South-East Ireland. It’s Saturday night and they’re facing a sell-out crowd – all of whom have paid to watch a debate on global economics and most of whom aren’t waiting until the interval to have a drink.
I was at a festival last week that combined up-to-the-minute economic analysis with raucous no-holds-barred comedy. It sounds like a strange mix – but it worked. Maybe that’s because this unique hybrid event took place in Ireland where, even in the teeth of adversity, folk see the funny side of life.
Kilkenomics is staged annually in the elegant bijou city of Kilkenny, in the south east of the Emerald Isle. Dubbed “Davos with laughs”, it attracts a high-powered crowd of economists hailing from central banks, financial institutions and some of the world’s top universities – together with the odd renegade dismal scientist such as me.
Two pieces of economic news emerged last week that I can’t avoid mentioning in this weekend’s column. The first is that China’s economy grew by 7.6pc during the second quarter, its weakest rate since 2009. This GDP growth slow-down, albeit to what remains an enviably buoyant pace, has caused some angst on global markets. China, after all, is the second-largest economy on earth.
With the US still sluggish, the emerging markets, China the powerhouse among them, have replaced America as the world’s economic locomotive. The “non-West” now accounts for half of all commerce and a massive four-fifths of global growth. If China tanks, we’re in for another world-wide slump.