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Trade Finance Survey 2017: Tough times in trade finance

The world seems to be turning away from globalization and towards protectionism. Yet despite this challenging environment for trade, the bankers who finance it remain surprisingly upbeat.

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Last year was characterized by the rising volume of protectionist talk and by the biggest threat to the European Union since its inception. 

Donald Trump’s election victory owed much to his promise to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The UK voted to reject the EU’s march towards ever-closer union. The Italians rejected a proposed constitutional change that many in the financial sector saw as vital to restore growth in the country. And with more European elections coming up this year, any one of which could pose an existential threat to the EU, things could get markedly worse. 

“I have been in the business 35 years and this is probably the most complex environment I have ever seen for the banking industry,” says Mark Ling, head of trade and working capital at Santander Corporate & Commercial Banking, which moves up one place to ninth in Euromoney’s global survey rankings this year, in which more than 4,000 companies participated.

The effect on trade is already being felt. Having grown faster than global GDP for years, global trade growth in 2016 is forecast to come in at 1.7%,