Afternoon Coffee: Globalization remains resilient despite COVID-19 restrictions; Coupa adds Michelle Brennan to its board; Microsoft to build data center in Greece

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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic blocking borders and stalling economies, the economic ties built up by globalization have proven more resilient than some thought, according to Reuters.

Trade in goods is anticipated to decline by 9% this year, compared to the initial 13-32% prediction from the World Trade Organization in April. The Chinese industrial sector is recovering to its pre-pandemic levels, with exports up 9.5% year-over-year in August. Optimism among German exporters hit a two-year high last month, according to the article.

Although the pandemic led to a record 235 export restrictions, there have been fewer new import tariffs than in the past two peak years, the article said. Consultants for McKinsey & Co said supply chain issues grabbed the attention of chief executives and board rooms, shifting leaders’ focus to consider stability and resilience in procurement.

“The reason there will be more talk than walk is simple — it’s costly,” Pascal Lamy, former leader of the WTO, told Reuters. “Globalization is efficient and painful. De-globalization is inefficient and painful.”

Coupa appoints Michelle Brennan from Johnson & Johnson to board of directors

Coupa, a provider of solutions for business spend management (BSM), announced this week that Michelle Brennan — a healthcare executive who most recently served as global value creation leader at Johnson & Johnson — will join its board of directors.

According to a press release, Brennan has decades of experience in global operations and corporate strategy initiatives. In six months, Brennan delivered $1 billion in savings for Johnson & Johnson through streamlining processes and implementing scorecards and dashboards.

"Coupa's focus on value drew me to the company, as it's something I've championed my entire career,” Brennan said in the press release. "Now more than ever, businesses need solutions that drive value and are turning to platforms like Coupa to implement, streamline and operationalize end-to-end processes that save time, resources and money. I'm excited to further my passion for this kind of innovation and help steward the next phase of Coupa's journey."

Microsoft plans to build three data centers in Greece

Microsoft announced that it plans to build three data center sites in and around Athens, Greece, giving an investment of up to $1 billion to the Greek economy that has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Associated Press.

The announcement comes after nine months of confidential negotiations. The deal includes digital-skills training programs for some 100,000 government, private sector workers, educators and students. Microsoft has data centers in 26 countries, and the timeline for development of the Greek data center is still being worked out. Traditionally, the process in other countries has taken about two years.

The Greek economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, counting a 15.2% drop in output on the year in the second quarter, the article said. According to budget figures released this week, Greece’s economy is expected to contract 8.2% this year.

“We are starting to create the conditions for their return,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. “The creation of a data center upgrades a country as an investment destination. … Greece has the sun and now it’s getting a cloud.”

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