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Robert B. Zoellick

President, The World Bank Group (2007-2012); U.S. Deputy Secretary of State (2005-2006); U.S. Trade Representative for President George W. Bush (2001-2005)

The former President of the World Bank Group from 2007-2012, Trade Representative from 2001 to 2005, and Deputy Secretary of State from 2005 to 2006, Robert Zoellick is one of the world’s most distinguished authorities on the global economy, international finance, and foreign policy. He is unrivaled in his depth and breadth of what makes global economies tick and how best to operate in an increasingly global market.

Zoellick is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, the Department of State’s highest honor, and continues his work as a top expert in finance and economics as the non-executive chairman of Alliance Bernstein, a leading global investment management firm that offers high-quality research and diversified investment services to institutional investors, individuals, and private wealth clients in major world markets.

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The international economy is now struggling to recover from the greatest blows since the 1930s. Developing countries are compensating for the stumbling industrialized world. Today, China alone is consuming over half of the world’s cement, and it is the world’s largest consumer of minerals, such as copper, zinc, and nickel. This may well decline as China is built – yet India and others are still to follow.

For the decade before the financial crisis, economies in Sub-Saharan Africa were growing at about 5 percent a year. Today, most Africans have already recovered and returned to that rate. If those growth rates could be maintained, Africa can become a future pole of growth in the world economy.

Half a century ago, the world looked to the industrialized countries for development models. Today, developing countries – even as they remain home to billions of poor people – are looking to one another for ideas. The dynamics in the international economy have shifted radically. The changes in the last few decades have been immense.

What does all this mean for the future?

It means that we can’t keep using the models of yesterday for the world economy of today and tomorrow. The economic and security problems of past decades have changed drastically; although many of the issues remain very current, the context is vastly different. We’re moving to a world of multiple poles of growth.

Engaging and enlightening, Bob Zoellick examines the current domestic and international developments impacting the world politically and economically, assessing their immediate and long-term implications, and translating what it means for businesses and governments worldwide. He also addresses the enormous potential for tackling these challenges – with new development partners providing fresh ideas and resources, and new information and technology to help solve old problems. In addition, Zoellick suggests the need for a new model that connects all the global players – modernized multilateralism – that is fluid and flexible, in which emerging economies join new networks of countries, international institutions, foundations, civil society organizations, and the private sector.

A global paradigm shift is occurring. The Third World is an outdated concept. Developing countries are not just a subsidiary category, dependencies, or charity cases. They are diverse. They are growing – economically and in influence. Over the past five years, developing countries have provided two-thirds of global growth. They want to be the stewards of their own futures. They want more voice in the global system, and the world needs them, over time, to assume more responsibilities within that system.

However, as the markets churn, so do the challenges for developing regions. Issues of credit contraction and trade finance pull-back have affected many, while remittances and trade markets are impacting others. As the Europeans step back from some markets, Asian banks and businesses have stepped in, counteracting some of the negative effects. There has also been a significant experience and knowledge transfer from middle-income countries to developing regions to support and bolster innovation and productivity growth.

Thus, opportunities abound in emerging markets but how to navigate the potential risk and volatility within the dynamic, tumultuous environment of the current – and future – global economy. As President of the World Bank Group, Bob Zoellick instituted six strategic themes as guidance for the World Bank Group, among which he put top priority on helping underdeveloped countries to overcome poverty and to spur sustainable growth. In the past five years, the World Bank, under his leadership invested US $300 billion in projects around the world in a fight against poverty.

Zoellick also served as Chairman of the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), which offers investment, advisory, and asset management services to encourage private sector development in developing countries. In 2010, Zoellick created IFC’s Asset Management Company (AMC) to supplement IFC’s traditional model of raising money by tapping sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and other institutional investors looking to increase exposure to emerging markets accessing IFC’s transaction pipeline, investment approach, and track record of superior returns. In only two short years, the AMC now totals over $4 billion – almost $3 billion of which had little previous exposure to Africa and other less recognized emerging markets.

Zoellick draws on his remarkable experience and knowledge to offer sharp insight and intellect on the current prospects and perils of emerging markets and developing countries. From macroeconomic stability to microeconomic reform, national security to environmental safety, Bob Zoellick has his finger on the pulse of what is really happening within each region and how it impacts organizations, institutions, and individuals around the world.

A stagnant economy and disappointing job growth have been hallmarks of the American economic situation the past 18 months. Although the private business sector demonstrates the qualities of wanting to move forward and get back to work, a heavy weight of uncertainty is dragging down the economy. Who knows what taxes are going to be depending on what happens with the fiscal cliff later this year? What will the health care costs be for employees?

In the financial sector, Dodd-Frank has 243 new rules and 67 studies. The energy sector is apprehensive about the forthcoming regulatory mix on natural gas, oil and fracking. Many companies are even unsure about the National Labor Relations Board policies, particularly in light of recent rulings not conducive to a pro-investment environment.

Whether right or wrong, this immense burden is impacting critical components of the economy — energy, health care, the financial sector, labor rules, taxes – and will continue to do so until these uncertainties are resolved. One of the most adept, incisive, and respected voices on today’s geo-economic landscape, Bob Zoellick offers extraordinary acumen and peerless perspective on the current challenges confronting the US economy, and how leaders and policymakers can effectively and efficiently deal with its spending and debt issues for the future health and prosperity of Americans and all global citizens.

The eurozone is at a pivotal juncture in its lifecycle. Three interconnected issues are plaguing the system: the ominous rise of sovereign debt, the banks that owned much of that debt, and the varying rate of productivity growth within the eurozone countries, forcing some countries to face challenges of competitiveness.

Despite the extraordinary measures taken by the European Central Bank to remove some of the risks, the eurozone has now entered a phase in which the politics of reform are as important as the economics of reform. Its future depends on actions of individual countries, particularly the steps they take for fiscal consolidation, and the steps they need to take for structural reforms and future growth. However, it is incredibly difficult to take those steps in a no-growth environment, so it must be balanced with steps that might be able to support demand and longer-term changes of growth.

In this expansive, illuminating discussion, Bob Zoellick provides an astute analysis on the critical eurozone issues, lucidly distilling the complexities to offer insight on the supply side and ways in which the single market could further deepen integration to support growth. Drawing from his phenomenal experience on the front lines of the economic battleground, Zoellick posits further government actions will be necessary, and the political will to make tough choices are a key component of success. He examines how these actions – or inactions — will affect Europe’s position within the global marketplace as well as their impact on its foreign policy with non-European nations and vice-versa. Within the eurozone, policymakers must not focus solely on short-term measures, but act within a context of growth and to sustain the politics of reform so as to overcome these pressing political economy issues.

The current world economy is fragile and uncertainties abound. The greatest dangers emanate from Europe, but there are troubles across the developed world. Washington’s budget, debt, growth and jobs challenges may not be as imminent in the eyes of international markets, but they could be just as serious. Developing countries’ economic growth has helped compensate for the lackluster performance of developed nations, but they are not immune to the shocks coming out of industrialized countries.

Today’s response to this new round of danger must be different from that of 2008 as the problems of this phase of the crisis are likely to persist for years to come. Together, all nations must at least agree not to engage in irresponsible actions – such as retreat to protectionism or trade wars. The G-20 also must offset the damage to the poorest countries. It is vital to not only consider short-term solutions but medium- and longer-term ones as well.

In this timely, comprehensive and compelling discussion, Bob Zoellick expounds on the issues confronting the current world economy and examines their impact on the local, regional and global level for governments, businesses, and individuals. Zoellick stresses that growth is not a zero sum: if the emerging markets in developing countries are growing, it benefits developed countries and other developing countries. He emphasizes that in addition to the essential issue of macroeconomic stability, it is important for developed and developing countries alike to focus on the structural reforms– the microeconomic reforms– that will drive future growth, innovation, and opportunity.

Over the past three decades, China has experienced dramatic changes that have produced astounding effects: an average growth rate of 10 percent; improved living conditions in low-income areas for millions; over half a billion people lifted out of poverty; and rising to become the world’s largest exporter. It’s a unique and remarkable development success story.

Yet it is time to reconsider whether that export- and investment-led growth model will serve China and the world well over the next decade. Its structural challenges occur in a current international context of slowing growth and weakening confidence. Although already serving as an engine of growth, can China avoid the middle income trap and continue to grow rapidly over the next two decades and beyond? In the next 15 to 20 years, China will strive to join the ranks of the world’s high-income countries but what will it take to get there – to build on China’s considerable strengths, capitalize on external opportunities, and manage the potential hazards, risks, and vulnerabilities?

And – perhaps the most important question: How can China best draw on the talents, energy, and creativity of its people? In the next five years, more people will be leaving the Chinese workforce than joining it. How can policymakers ensure that the Chinese people can adapt, innovate, and play an active role in the healthy and positive process of change?

Working for over 20 years to help transform China from a closed economy to a thriving, more cooperative player on the world stage, Bob Zoellick possesses a depth and breadth of knowledge on the capacity, capabilities and core assets of China, its development strategies and the potential effects it will have on global politics and the economy. He completed China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001. In 2005, he led the first strategic dialogue with China and gave a seminal speech to the National Committee on US-China Relations, calling on China to become a responsible stakeholder – internationally. At the World Bank, Zoellick spearheaded one of the most comprehensive and significant economic studies ever on China and its future. Given China’s importance to a healthy, growing world economy, this discussion is of paramount importance to organizations and individuals everywhere.


Robert B. Zoellick is Senior Counselor at Brunswick Group Geopolitical, an advisory service of Brunswick Group, and an Adjunct Professor and Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. In addition, Zoellick serves on the boards of Temasek, Singapore’s Sovereign Wealth Fund and Robinhood Markets. He also chairs the International Advisory Council of Standard Chartered Bank, and serves on the Strategic Council of Swiss Re. He is a member of the boards of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Carnegie Endowment, chairs the Global Tiger Initiative, and is a member of the Global Leadership Council of Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian agency.

Zoellick was the President of the World Bank Group from 2007-12, U.S. Trade Representative from 2001 to 2005, and Deputy Secretary of State from 2005 to 2006. From 1985 to 1993, Zoellick served as Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury and Under Secretary of State, as well as White House Deputy Chief of Staff. He published, “America in the World: A History of US Diplomacy and Foreign Policy” in August 2020. His book has been translated into Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Georgian.

Zoellick is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, the Department of State’s highest honor, the Alexander Hamilton Award of the Department of the Treasury, and the Medal for Distinguished Public Service of the Department of Defense. The German government awarded him the Knight Commander’s Cross for his achievements in the course of German unification. The Mexican and Chilean governments gave him their highest honors for non-citizens, the Aztec Eagle and the Order of Merit, for recognition of his work on free trade, development, and the environment. The Colombian government presented him with the Grand Cross.

Zoellick holds JD magna cum laude from the Harvard Law School, a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a bachelor’s degree (Phi Beta Kappa) from Swarthmore College.


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