PARIS (June 29): Despite the uncertainty driven by US and China trade tensions that are scaring financial markets and threatening economic growth, there are reasons to cheer amid the pessimism.

Kishore Mahbubani, former Singapore diplomat and professor in the practice of policy at the National University of Singapore, says that the last three decades have been “incredible” years for the global community.

For one, global poverty has reduced drastically from 75% to 10%, he says. Secondly, the growing middle class population is expected to surge to 5.4 billion in 2030 from 1.8 billion in 2009. These should underpin global growth ahead.

“I know there is a lot of doom and gloom in the room. But I think in all the focus on the negatives, there is a lack of focus on the positive parts of the equation, which are equally strong,” says Mahbubani at the Amundi World Investment Forum 2018. He was speaking on the roundtable topic entitled Geopolitical Landscape: What is the future of international relations?

As it is, US president Donald Trump has imposed trade tariffs on Chinese products, which has so far elicited a measured response from China. Both countries now impose a 25% tariff on each other’s products. The US could impose other tariffs going forward.

Former Italy Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who is one of the roundtable speakers, says he expects more “fireworks” from Trump in the run-up to the US mid-terms elections in November.

He says there could be more unexpected “ideas and events” as Trump needs to cement support from his voter base.

Mahbubani, however, thinks that the situation is less adverse than it appears to be, though he admits that Trump is “unpredictable”.

He explains that China could have upped the ante with a more “angry” response against the US, but it chose to retaliate strategically for the long term.

Simon Fraser, who is the former permanent secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the third speaker at the roundtable, concurs.

“I think China is reciprocating, but it is avoiding escalating [the trade tensions],” he says.