Friday, September 23, 2005

Ideas from Wall Street to Lisbon

With hurricane Rita closing in on the shores of the US Gulf coast, I'm leaving New York and heading for Lisbon in Portugal.

Two days have been spent discussing the ten greatest risks to the global economy in a conference facility by Wall Street just a stone throw from where the World Trade Center once stood. An assortment of experts as well as people from the financial industry have been trying to do their best to see what could go wrong in the years ahead.

The results were not without interest. At the end of the two days, concerns over global energy supplies come in very high, followed by worries about a possible sudden correction of primarily the US current account deficit, with the spectre of the effects on the global economy of new pandemic diseases also hovering over the discussion.

Terrorism certainly figured as well, but far less than just a few years ago, and there was obviously concern over developments in the Middle East, not the least in Iraq. This being the United States, we also had our discussions on the peaceful rise of China and the possibility of that leading to confrontations further down the road.

And then there were obviously the issues connected with possible systemic chocks in the global financial system that's centered in the very buildings around were we were meeting. In a low interest-rate environment, the search for yields might be driving the system into riskier environments with increasingly advanced but perhaps not fully understood instruments.

From here I'm heading to Lisbon to speak tomorrow to the European Ideas Fair of the European Ideas Network that every year brings the best and the brightest of the centre-right of the European Union countries, and primarily the EPP parties and their associated think-thanks.

We'll be meeting in the conference center in Belem just by the great monument to those explorers that from the shores of the river Tagus went out beyond the borders of the known world to see what there was beyond the far horizons.

Perhaps we need somewhat more of that spirit to handle all of the challenges of our Europe and our world today.