Insurance Post

From Paris with Snow

Francesca Nyman

The title of this blog is slightly misleading as I am no longer in Paris and there is no longer snow. But before the thaw, I found myself in the Francophile’s playground, courtesy of Coface.

Good food, fine wine and the Coface Country Risk Conference were waiting on the other side of the Euro Tunnel.

The main focus of the event was global trade and the role that credit insurers and credit agencies play in facilitating it.

The morning sessions saw speakers try to outdo each other with pessimism over the Eurozone outlook. Anaemic growth of -0.1% was forecast for 2013 and doubt was cast on the viability of a new banking federation. Any still under the impression that the glass was half full were swiftly brought to their senses.

On a lighter note Coface chief executive Jean-Marc Pillu had told us earlier that "the one thing we can be bullish about is emerging markets," but even that had caveats, as a panel session issued warnings of rising protectionism in some emerging economies.

This is clearly of concern for insurers. Insurance Europe has long been lobbying against Brazilian regulations requiring foreign reinsurers to place mandatory reinsurance cessions with local insurers and the IMF investigation recently came out in support of their position.

Collaboration was mentioned again and again. We may not like everything emerging markets do to protect themselves, but as they now represent 40% of gross domestic product ignoring them is both not an option, and a wasted opportunity.

The proposed referendum on the UK's participation in the European Union, otherwise known as "Cameron's little experiment", was also a hot topic with speakers debating public sentiment on the union.

"The British are very Euro-sceptic but I would not underestimate the desire of the British people to stay in the EU" said Chatham House director Robin Niblett.

I really hope he's right. I'm no economist, but after sitting through countless talks on efforts to remove trade barriers and strengthen global relationships, it seems perverse that PM David Cameron would want to erect new barriers- both for UK firms, and for foreign businesses wanting to operate here. Surely its time for some positive news?

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