In the grand scheme of history, some years barely register, forgotten the moment New Year’s Eve fireworks explode, and fading quickly into anonymity. This seems unlikely to be the case for 2016. The reverberations from the seismic political events of the year seem set to last well into the next 10, 20, 30 years or beyond, reshaping history from this moment onwards. 

The election of the unpredictable, tweet-bombing Donald Trump in the US, the soon-to-be ugly divorce between the UK and EU, the renouncing of a decades-long military alliance with the US by the Philippines’ firebrand president, the refugee crisis in Europe and lingering devastating war in Syria, the reopening of Iran and Cuba, populist movements catching fire and far-right parties on the ascent in western European countries that thought they had long since put the ghosts of fascism to rest: all of these events, and more, are due to cause ripple effects, undoing the status quo for good or ill. Political, economic and security structures that have been in place since the end of the Second World War might soon be unravelling. 

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For global trade and investment, the stakes suddenly seem very high. No longer will the world trade apparatus content itself with niggling disputes over the minutiae of tariffs; the whole idea of free trade is now under attack. And while IPAs scramble to meet FDI targets and advertise their business friendliness, many of their political paymasters are doing their best to rail against the trade, outsourcing, investment and ‘big business’ that is the very lifeblood of FDI. Meanwhile, multinational companies are being demonised in much of today’s political rhetoric – sometimes justified, very often not – and tax, legislative and other policies are becoming harder to be sure of in such a politically charged and volatile global environment. Expansion decisions are never easy and uncertainty only adds to the complexity. 

But against this difficult backdrop, companies’ global plans carry on as does the work of economic developers hoping to attract them. In these times it is even more important to recognise the efforts of both sides. In this issue, as a tumultuous year draws to a close, we pause momentarily to strike a celebratory note and applaud the cities that stand out as stars in the investment landscape and the investment promotion agencies doing stellar work to make their locations competitive, and to recognise the companies most active in generating greenfield investment projects worldwide. The celebration will likely be brief, as 2017 doesn’t look to be substantially friendlier for those engaged in global trade and investment, alas. 

Courtney Fingar is editor-in-chief of fDi Magazine. Email: courtney.fingar@ft.com