Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

U.S., U.K. Still Seen as Top Places to Do Business Despite Protectionism

  • U.S. moves up two spots to sixth in World Bank ranking
  • U.K. stays in seventh place even as it pushes on with Brexit

The shift by the U.S. and Britain toward more protectionist trade and immigration policies isn’t hurting their reputation as places to do business, according to a new ranking from the World Bank.

The U.S. moved up two positions to sixth in the development lender’s rankings of 190 countries based on ease of doing business, while the U.K. retained its spot in seventh place, the World Bank said in its “Doing Business 2018” report released Tuesday.

New Zealand took the top place for the second straight year, followed by Singapore, Denmark, South Korea and Hong Kong. Macedonia dropped out of the top 10, while Georgia jumped into ninth spot. Among the top 20 ranked economies, the former Soviet republic has enacted the most business-friendly reforms since the World Bank started tracking them in 2003, according to the report.

The report ranks countries based on 11 indicators such as the ability to start a business, dealing with construction permits, accessing electricity, obtaining credit, trading across borders and paying taxes.

Economic growth in the U.S. and U.K. has exceeded expectations of late despite concerns expressed by some business leaders and economists about trade policies proposed by President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May. Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has threatened to do the same with the North American Free Trade Agreement, while May’s government is negotiating its exit from the European Union.

To be sure, the impact on business of a more protectionist America and Britain may take years to unfold as the two countries reshape their trade arrangements around the world. Trump and fellow Republican leaders in Congress are also proposing deep tax cuts for corporations, which may offset some of the negative impact of his proposals on trade.

Brunei Darussalam, Thailand, Malawi, Kosovo and India made the biggest strides in business-friendly reforms, according to the Washington-based lender.

Germany slipped three spots to 20th in the world, while Japan held its place at 34th and China stayed at 78th. India jumped from 130th in the world last year to 100th.

Europe and Central Asia had the highest percentage of countries enacting reforms, at 79 percent, while sub-Saharan Africa had the most number of total reforms, the development bank said.

Somalia was the worst performer in the rankings, closely trailing Eritrea, Venezuela, South Sudan and Yemen.

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