This week the topic which had the high-powered fretting in Davos was the bold question: Is Globalisation Dead?

It's been asked before.

Go back to 2020's peak pandemic and the shutdown of the world's economy set serious brows a-furrow.

I've never been to Davos. But I have been to Switzerland several times. The Alps have created an incredible landscape of long valleys and indomitable peaks. The valleys have hemmed in disparate linguistic communities which, despite their differences, have maintained a federation which is itself a mini version of globalisation.

So, in the spirit of Swiss valley provincialism, let's look at this question of whether globalisation is over from the perspective of our own island economy.

Last week, the CSO published trade in goods figures for March. These are actual containers shipped into and out of the country with stuff being bought and sold. Not your funny money service exports (which we'll come to presently...).

The figures showed exports in March of €20.2 billion, the highest monthly figure ever recorded. Imports of €11 billion were shipped in, another record. On the export side, the biggest categories were the multinational dominated medical, pharmaceutical and chemical products. But the more traditional food and live animals category was also up 16%.

And there's been a Brexit-busting trend in our trade with the UK. Last year, trade with our nearest neighbour was disrupted in the wake of new Brexit customs procedures.

Supply lines switched to direct sailings from the continent and there was a big increase in cross-border trade. Imports from the UK declined by €2.4 billion or 13% in 2021.

In the first three months of this year, that trend changed again. Exports to the UK for the first quarter compared to the first quarter of 2021 are up 26%. Imports from the UK over the same period are up 78%. Part of the reason for this is we import most of our oil products via the UK and they've shot up in price. So, the euro value of imports from the UK is up but there's also more trade in other goods.

The CSO also published a special report this week on the ICT sector. It's a little more historical. The data is from 2019, but the sector has gone from strength to strength since. It details how 91,000 people are employed in the industry here: 50,000 in foreign owned multinationals and 41,000 in domestic firms.

It produced €128 billion worth of services in 2019, with €117 billion or 91% of those services exported. The sector paid out €8.5 billion in wages and €3.9 billion in tax.

So, our trading economy, whether that's goods or services, shows no sign of shrinking from the world.

But as one of the key publications of the World Economic Forum (a 'White Paper' no less...) this week made clear, "...the convergence of physical and virtual forms of economic globalisation is no longer a given."

It paints a number of scenarios.

One is entitled 'Autarkic World: Systemic Fragmentation'. It paints a dystopian future where "...the global pandemic and the geopolitical conflict at the beginning of the decade have had far-reaching consequences."

These include 'internet censorship and surveillance.' It gets much worse: "...living standards fall and safety nets are reduced...significant and prolonged price and supply shocks, rising political instability and increased defence spending."

Some of what's described in this report of course sounds familiar in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A separate publication at Davos this week highlights the negative implications of current levels of inflation on real wages across the economies of the world, not to mention the 'dire global consequences' for global food security as the war grinds on.

In the dialogues reported over the week in Davos, there was lots of talk about 'fragmentation' and 'restructuring of supply lines.' An example is the not-so-simple change Europe has been staring at since Russian invaded Ukraine: Where are we going to get our gas next winter?

Ireland's embrace of globalisation continues to serve the economy well. But the financial crisis taught us that globalisation can also deliver devastating damage when you're not prepared for the negative swings that do happen.

Globalisation is far from dead. But that doesn't mean the nature of the world with which we trade isn't changing and becoming much riskier. Because it is.