The WCP session at the 2018 Public forum - "Adapting to the digital era: Challenges and Opportunities"
Thursday, October 4, 2018
The 2018 WTO Public Forum took place in Geneva, Switzerland from October 2 to 4 under the main theme of "Trade 2030" covering topics such as sustainable trade, technology-enabled trade, and a more inclusive trading system.
The WTO Chairs Programme (WCP) organized the session - "Adapting to the digital era: Challenges and Opportunities". The panel included representatives from the WTO chairholders from academic institutions, Geneva Trade Policy community and the WTO Secretariat. The session was moderated by Jean Marie Paugam, Permanent Representative of France to the WTO. It offered a holistic look at the impact of digital technology on trade and what countries may have to face when adapting to the new trade era.
Robert Teh, Chief of Economic Modelling and Quantitative Analysis Unit at WTO, opened the panel discussion with key messages from the 2018 WTO Trade Report "The future of world trade: how digital technologies are transforming global commerce". He mentioned the different digital technologies considered in the report, such as, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing and Blockchain and how their development can be transformative and disruptive to domestic economies and to trade. Keith Nurse, WTO chairholder from University of the West Indies, Barbados presented on the topic "Blockchains and Trade-Related Copyright: Digitalization and the Trade 2030 Agenda". He discussed the rapid growth of digitalization and blockchains and their profound impact on the creative economy, the music business and copyright administration. He delved further into the potential benefits for developing countries and how they may seize the opportunities. Riza Noer Arfani, WCP Chairholder from Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia discussed his paper "Engaging to the Digital Economy: Issues and Agenda in Quest for the Adoption of Indonesia’s E-Commerce Road Map". The discussion covered two major categories of issues resulting from the adoption of Indonesia's e-commerce road map and its implication to the future of the country's digital economy. Lorraine Ferreira and Ermie Steenkamp from North-West University, South Africa presented their forthcoming paper "Promoting sustainable and inclusive trade in a digital era by exploring untapped intra-regional trade opportunities in Africa". They discussed the current obstacles to intra-regional trade in Africa and how technology enabled trade can be a powerful driver for the region's inclusive and sustainable development. The final speaker for the session, Ambassador Alvaro Cedeño Molinari, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica gave his views on the topic "Trade 2030, a Policy perspective from Friends of E-Commerce for Development". He stated that the WTO should update its rule book – by making trade frictionless and borderless through multilateral rules. He stressed on the idea of bridging the gap between 4IR and climate action, i.e., digital agenda for trade and development should also take environmental issues into consideration.
During the final general discussion, one audience exchanged his opinion with the South African panelists on "cultural barriers" being part of the obstacles to intra-regional trade in Africa. Another audience asked questions related to the current connectivity situation in Africa and Ambassador Cedeño responded his question by highlighting the importance of inclusiveness when it comes to sustainable development. Overall, the session was very well attended and the feedback received from the audience and the panelists were very positive, specifically because the session linked the academic thinking and debates with policy making.