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Navigating global markets remain challenging as various disruptions continue to impact supply chains. High inflation, rapid supply/demand fluctuations, geopolitical tensions are a few of the many factors that are impacting global supply chains and limiting the ability of global sourcing managers to secure their supply. With so many factors impacting choices of where or what to source from global markets, returning to the fundamentals is key to ensure sustainability in this dynamic new environment.

Global markets offer attractive sourcing options but where to start? Four key questions help us navigate – Why, Where, What and How to Source Globally?

global market sourcing options

Sourcing managers that are proactive in how they address key global procurement fundamentals of why, where, what and how to source globally have many opportunities in the current environment, but getting this right remains a challenge. Below, Axis Group offers insights on where to look and what categories to consider for effective global procurement & supply.

Key Highlights

  • China remains the world’s top global exporter and continues to export a wide spectrum of both high and low-value products competitively – a very prominent global player, dominant in many categories
  • The US, Germany, Netherlands and Japan remain high on the global export rankings; with other developed countries like Italy, Belgium, France, the UAE, Canada and the UK remaining high as well. Their exports mostly remain concentrated in high-value, high-cost, and technologically advanced products
  • Challengers from Asia include India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand; while contenders from the rest of world include Mexico, Poland, Brazil and Türkiye
  • Dynamic new challengers from Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latam have increased their exports of high-value products, while still competing in low-end, low-cost categories – several offer real, viable, high-end options
  • The upshot: a world of opportunities is unfolding for perceptive, analytical, and proactive global procurement managers – now is a time to look beyond the comfortable historical choices
  • Imperative: balancing risk & cost is possible even if it requires a new approach to ‘global vs local’ – and procurement and supply executives have more value to add during these times of uncertainty

Where to look in a World of Global Procurement Opportunities?

Global trade was severely impacted early in the pandemic, and recovery was slow for many of the traditional global export leaders. However, dynamic markets in Asia and other developing parts of the world experienced a faster recovery, most of them seeing growth in their year-on-year exports in 2021. This trend continued in 2022, as more markets continued to grow their exports despite the many challenges in the current global sourcing environment. It is imperative that global sourcing managers observe the opportunity that these dynamic markets present, as they continue to increase their production capacity and exports of increasingly high-value products. Over the short to medium term, diversification planning (‘local’ vs ‘global’), recession risks (supplier health impact), and sustainability (ESG goals) present important additional considerations that must be incorporated in planning.

Shift in Global Export Rankings – New Winners, Losers, and some Holding Ground: Since 1990, the global top 30 exporter rankings have changed significantly. Economic growth within emerging markets, with special impetus given to export growth, have led to their rise in manufacturing and export rankings. In addition, there has been a strong link between deepening global interconnectivity, the rise of free trade agreements, and an increase in trade by new countries on the world stage. However, increasing global demand as well as strong export growth, led to an overall rebound in trade and commerce in the last two years. What will the new landscape look like?

China, several high-income economies, and new challengers from developing countries are the winners in global exports; there are also several losers

global top 30 exporters

Trends: China, USA and Germany have consistently been among the top 3 global exporters since 2005. However, there has been dynamic and constant readjustments below the top 3 rankings.

  • USA, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Italy and France remained in the top 10 throughout the period of 1990-2022
  • China, South Korea, and Hong Kong SAR together appear in the top 10 from 2015 onwards, while Mexico has risen to #13 in 2022 (from #20 in 1990)
  • Since 2005, Poland, Vietnam and Türkiye entered as new top 30 challengers
  • Between 1990 and 2010, South Africa and various EU countries (Portugal, Denmark, Finland and Sweden) fell out of the top 30 to make room for the new challengers
  • China became a WTO member in 2001, resulting in a rapid rise in their global exports. Its gradual shift from producing and exporting low-end goods to high-quality, high-end manufacturing enabled it to remain at the top of the rankings since 2010
  • China’s share of global exports has increased to 14.4% in 2022
  • Mexico’s rise from #20 to #13 makes it a key market – and one to watch going forward, even if its current main export destination is mainly focused on North America
  • Vietnam entered the top 30 only after 2010 but already reached #23 by 2022 – a stellar rise compared to other countries. Sustained efforts aimed at increasing its manufacturing capacity and reducing its trade deficit has led it to not only benefit from a trade surplus in recent years but also improve its global ranking in exports by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15% from 2010 to 2022. In 2022, Vietnam’s year-on-year export growth was 11%
  • India, Australia, Poland and Türkiye will likely be key markets to watch with countries such as Spain, Switzerland, Malaysia, and Thailand needing to defend their rankings
new challengers in top global exporters

Upshot: Since 1990, the top 30 exporters have faced varying levels of disruption due to a 30-year process of dynamic adjustment. For each interval – by 2000, 2010, and 2022 – the landscape had shifted significantly due to global competition with 3 broad categories emerging – new winners, losers, and those that are holding their ground. The pandemic saw these shifts exacerbated with both developed and developing economies suffering a reduction in demand, production, and exports. With global recovery efforts in 2021 and 2022 bringing forth a new normal, we anticipate:

  • Expect variability and volatility in different countries’ growth as labour shortages, supplier health, high interest rates, export demand and overall industrial production output impacts key export clusters– this has significant implications for managing risk and cost in the supply chain
  • Raw materials’ availability, capacity issues, logistics challenges, supply shortages, and price shocks will still be some of the challenges to manage
  • East Asian economies are relatively stable, have a younger workforce and have room to further grow and hence may pull ahead sooner than most in times of challenges, continuing to act as an engine of global economic growth

The USA’s share of imports coming from China has decreased in recent years, while at the same time seeing increases from markets such as Vietnam & India

USA share of imports coming from China

What has changed so far in 2023?: Particularly in recent years, the question of how to effectively reduce over reliance on a single source of supply has become more important for procurement managers. Many developed nations (as well as their developing counterparts) struggled to secure shipments of necessary goods during times of uncertainty. The words ‘rightshoring’ & ‘friendshoring’ are being used more frequently as managers seek to strengthen and diversify their global value chains against potential future challenges.

  • The USA, as one of the world’s largest import markets, has shown evidence of shifting their import partners towards either ‘friend shoring’ opportunities or from other strategically important markets (‘right shoring’)
  • In the first 4 months of 2023, USA’s month-on-month imports from China had decreased, with January (-22%), February (-29%), March (-37%) & April (-23%) representing sharp declines from gains seen in 2022
  • Imports on the other hand from Mexico increased in January (11%) & February (10%), however had also decreased following market downturns in March and April
  • Imports from USA’s other neighbor Canada also saw an increase with January (7%) & February (5%), however similar to Mexico, decreased in the remaining 2 months of this period
  • While back in 2018 China accounted for 22% of USA’s imports share, this had dropped to 17% in 2022, with the current lower trade figures indicating a further decline occurring this year
  • The above trends follow the data from a survey done at the end of 2021 which had around 69% of supply chain executives expecting diversification of import sources to occur by 2024
  • As is this case for the US: Vietnam, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Phillipines have emerged as alternatives to China
trapped procurement teams

Imperatives: The past 3 decades have seen many new global procurement opportunities (but also setbacks) arising from globalization and more integrated supply chains. Variability in economic acceleration and slowdowns, political instability, natural disasters, as well as health crises impacted the flow of trade for many countries. However, the impact of challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic on global exports and competitiveness led to an unprecedented entry into a new world of change and needs for international procurement and supply. The risk & cost equation now looks different. As such, a few priorities stand out for Global Procurement & Supply professionals:

  • Fully appreciate the tectonic shifts that are occurring in global export competitiveness over the short, medium, and long term; and monitor the new unfolding spectrum of diverse countries and ‘best fit’ supply markets – and their ability to produce across different tiers of value-add, product complexity, and cost
  • Continuously map incumbent suppliers in this evolving overall picture to understand the array of supply options in their current supply markets, countries that are slipping and new markets that matter
  • Ensure good spend analytics and insight (internal orientation) and strategic supply market intelligence (outward orientation) to support decision-making
  • Revisit operating models and step through strategic decisions such as ‘buy vs make’, vertical integration options, and insourcing vs outsourcing choices
  • Assess and position appropriately across the different strategic options such as sourcing locally vs globally across critical spend categories – and calibrate the potential mix of offshoring, reshoring, nearshoring, and onshoring activities
  • Avoid single-source thinking, over-dependence on too few supply markets (risk), and under-exposure to viable supply markets (opportunity)
  • Get the mix right – China continues to be a dominant or at least prominent player in global supply chains; but, across many categories, several challengers are emerging as alternatives that can be pursued
  • Entrench and develop high performance teams with the skills and capacity to manage a complex portfolio of suppliers across a potentially diverse selection of ‘best-fit’ supply markets in the new global context
  • Procurement managers should continue to monitor current geopolitical and international affairs as as numerous opportunities (e.g., new Free Trade Agreements) and challenges (e.g., conflict in Europe) impact the ability to achieve goals such as supply chain diversification

What Global Supply Clusters & Category Choices to consider?

While traditional leaders such as the US, Japan, and Germany remain high on export rankings, markets such as India, Vietnam, Poland, and Mexico have increased their potential to become challengers for global recognition. But what are they exporting? Which categories and product choices can be targeted in these new markets? A quick fly-over suggests that there are a few surprises in store in terms of choices around ‘where and what’ to source. Many countries have, in fact, rapidly climbed the ladder and have more mature capabilities; they often simply no longer live up to (unfair) stereotypes. Herein lies the opportunity for perceptive, proactive, and analytical procurement and supply teams. Astute teams are already working on the new options that exist in balancing risk and cost – and will be rewarded for it. But many organisations and procurement teams are clearly trapped in ‘comfort-zones’ and are clearly far behind in recognizing and tapping the new global procurement potential. They will be penalized in the marketplace.

Dynamic emerging markets are among the top 30 global exporters, with high – technology exports entrenched in their portfolios

Dynamic emerging markets

China is the largest global exporter, with products on both the high and low end of the value chain. Other developing markets in Asia and the rest of the world have increased their capacity to supply higher value-added products; and with increased importance placed on supplier diversification, these markets should be watched. Below, we take a snapshot of selected dynamic markets, their top 100 export products, and the composition and concentration for these products across industries and sectors. (Note*: 2021 data is used for Vietnam as 2022 data has not been released at the time of publishing this article)

Final Word

The world has been a competitive marketplace for hundreds of years and this has intensified over the past 50 years in a globalized world. Events of the past 3 years have only exacerbated the dynamic adjustments that are constantly taking place – and it is clear that there are winners, losers, and those that are holding ground.
Astute procurement leaders and their teams are already tapping the new world of global procurement opportunities to drive value for their organisations.
For more on Axis Group International’s Global Procurement & Supply solutions get in touch: solve@axisgroup-international.com

new world of global opportunities

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