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The New Seven Sisters of the World

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MONTREAL -- Ferdinando Beccalli-Falco is CEO of GE International and has nicknamed his wide-ranging role as "Minister of External Affairs". He travels continuously in order to serve international customers, forge alliances and improve GE's technological supply chains.
As a roving executive, his perspective is unique and yesterday he encapsulated the state of the economic world at the International Economic Forum of the Americas attended by business and political leaders from around the world.

The articulate, Italian-born Mr. Falco used a car-racing term, "pole leaders," to describe the world's six major players, and their strategies, in addition to the United States.

1. China "is a government committed to growth and to the well being of its people", he said. Its state-owned enterprises are gigantic, and favored by its government, but their scale gives them important advantages at home and abroad in terms of financial and technological might. Outside the country, China is embarking on a new colonialism in poorer countries consisting of aggressive investment, lending and trade policies abroad to quench its appetite for food, resources and export markets.

2. India's greatest advantage is its entrepreneurial class who have mastered smart global strategies and made its multinationals some of the most formidable corporations in the world. Its greatest challenge is bureaucratic red tape and delays but these impediments will slowly be overcome

3. The oil-bearing portion of the Middle East is collectively the richest region in the world and a leader has not emerged, he said, but Saudi Arabia is the likeliest. The new generation of leaders in the region have undertaken policies of diversification into non-oil activities and infrastructure improvements that insures their pre-eminence economically.

4. Likewise, Latin America is an economic force collectively and Brazil, one-third of the continent, leads the economies there. Its resource and agricultural base, good economic policies, stable politics and future offshore oil remain advantages.

5. Russia has a small population, relatively speaking, but its massive resource base guarantees it a major "pole" position. "It has a strong government with a strong leader and they want to modernize technology and are actively seeking partners which can help them to do that," he said.

6. The European Union is down but never out, he said. "The Euro won't disappear" and Greece represents only 2.5% of the region's GDP, equivalent in size to Alabama within the United States.

Europe's challenge is to unite psychologically, a United States of Europe, so that selfish national interests and rivalries can be set aside to streamline the EU's policies and processes and unite attitudes.

Former assistant U.S. Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, now President of the Brookings Institute, also spoke and coined a phrase to describe the shift as "geo-economics is the new geopolitics".

"The good news is that never before in history have all the great powers been at peace. Economic power is more diffuse...The United States will be a leader but not always the leader."

Diane Francis blogs at Financial Post