Sometimes a theme comes into fashion and immediately conquers the world.

Sometimes you talk for a long time about a topic that never becomes reality.

And sometimes there are topics that have been discussed for years that don't materialize, that are forgotten - and then they suddenly come back.

Patrick Bernau

Responsible editor for economy and "value" of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.

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The end of globalization has been talked about for a long time.

It all started in 2016 when Britain voted for Brexit and in the United States Donald Trump was elected President.

Trump imposed dozens of new tariffs, effectively starting an economic war.

China was hit hardest: The video network Tiktok, for example, was about to be split off from its Chinese parent company Bytedance.

To date, it has been separated within the group and is managed as an independent company.

In the midst of all this turbulence, anyone who asked western companies how they were dealing with this incipient polarization always got the same answer: such bloc formation would be a terrible idea, and the prosperity of the world would be endangered.

Many companies thought for a while and then did – exactly nothing.

They didn't want to push the disentanglement themselves and hoped that somehow they could still hold the world together.

"Friendshoring" is the new magic word

That has changed fundamentally.

Managers tell very different stories these weeks.

"Friendshoring" is the magic word under which they now work: Trade is restricted to friendly countries.

On the other hand, many companies are saying goodbye to the global exchange of goods.

At least gradually.

There is the American digital group, whose managers want to spend a lot of money in Europe in the coming years, but are investing practically nothing in Asia.

There are traditional German corporations that split up their supply chains: the products destined for America should no longer contain a single screw from Asia.

Then you can spin off at least part of the business quickly if the situation escalates further.

There's the European high-tech startup that was sold to China because founders and investors felt they had to choose sides.

And in China there were simply more customers.

Nobody likes to talk about it in public, nobody wants to reinforce the trend towards division by presenting themselves as part of the movement.

But the opportunity to unbundle trade relations was favorable when Corona severed many supply chains anyway and they had to be reforged.

Actually, they should have become more diverse, additional suppliers would have had to be won instead of leaving old ones behind.

Rather, globalization should intensify.

But instead, cautious managers are now bracing themselves for a changing political climate, perhaps even for decades to come.

"Freedom is more important than free trade"

Because the political pressure has grown significantly.

This happened subtly and gradually for a few years, but in recent weeks it has been hard to listen to globalization going out of style.

The most recent example is the Russia embargo, but the pressure goes far beyond that.

Change through trade?

Many politicians have left this motto far behind.

"It has been proven wrong" that trade alone creates change, said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock last week.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it most clearly: "Freedom is more important than free trade," said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, "the protection of our values ​​is more important than profit." Now the head of a military alliance is speaking here, but some economic politicians are sounding their tongues similar.

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