IOE and IT at the WTO Forum 2017: Go Behind the Headlines with the IOE and IT - Days 2 and 3

Fri 29 Sept 2017
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
IOE News

wto public forum - plenary hall

The Institute of Export & International Trade continued its participation in the WTO Public Forum, discussing with key trade figures the role it can play in creating an open and inclusive trading environment for all.  Day 2 & 3 of the Public Forum saw vital questions being asked about what inclusive trade looks like, including:

  • What are the most effective ways of ensuring women fully reap the benefits of trade?
  • How can we ensure SMEs adapt to new ways of doing business such as e-commerce?

Governments, the private sector, academics and more addressed these questions at the WTO Public Forum in a number of sessions.

Addressing a global trading environment that works for everyone

At a time in which many governments struggle to persuade voters of the benefits of globalisation as opposition to global trade grows, panellists underlined the need to agree on a progressive trade agenda and domestic policies that take into account gender, e-commerce and SMEs' contribution to growth and job creation.

Shunko Rojas, Under-Secretary of Foreign Trade of the Argentinian government, speaking at a session organised by B20 Germany and B20 Argentina, said:

"If the system is not inclusive, it is not serving its purpose. If people do not feel included, they start questioning the system. In this regard, national efforts are indispensable to complement what the international rules provide. Sometimes it is easier to blame the system instead of domestic regulations.”

Mr Rojas added that as G20 chair in 2018, and host country of the upcoming 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires (10-13 December), Argentina is pushing forward a comprehensive agenda that addresses the complex relation between trade, technological progress and job creation, with a particular emphasis on empowering women and small businesses.  

Making trade more accessible for SMEs

The IOE&IT was particularly interested in sessions that focussed on making trade more accessible to SMEs.  This is particularly important because many IOE&IT members fall under this category and the Institute’s mission is to help these companies export better, cheaper and more compliantly.

John Danilovich, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) said:

"The challenge starts with SMEs which are the backbone of the economy. Ninety-five per cent of companies are SMEs and 85 per cent of employment is attributable to SMEs. Six hundred million jobs will be needed in coming years and we need SMEs to be part of this”.

Launch of the WTO’s flagship publication on trade, technology and jobs

A particular highlight of the Public Forum was the launch of the WTO’s 2017 World Trade Report on trade, technology and jobs - the WTO’s flagship publication that examines how technology and trade affect labour markets. A group of eminent panellists discussed the effects of globalization on labour markets and its implications for business strategy, macroeconomic government policies, the evolution of labour markets, and how societies might adjust to these changes. 

"Trade and technology are two of the most powerful drivers of economic progress," said Director-General Roberto Azevedo in his opening address. He underlined that while most individuals are benefitting considerably from trade and technology, it is important to acknowledge that others can lose out.

"We need to ensure that the benefits of economic progress reach everybody," he added. 

The report concludes that:

Technological advances and trade opening have yielded enormous benefits for economies overall, but they can also adversely affect specific groups and regions – a problem which a great amount of countries are currently struggling to address. A key problem is the mismatch, or “friction”, between the new skills demanded by an increasingly information-driven global economy and the older skill set of many workers. People need more creative and effective help in adjusting to economic change, irrespective of whether it is driven by technology or trade. The goal is to find an appropriate balance between labour market flexibility, on the one hand, and employment security, on the other. The labour adjustment challenge may be local but the ramifications can be global. Today’s labour market problems are largely traceable to domestic policy shortcomings, but a failure to find answers could have global ramifications. By providing a forum where governments can meet, talk and negotiate, the WTO offers an indispensable platform – with other relevant international organisations – where governments can arrive at cooperative “win-win” approaches to the opportunities, as well as the challenges, of on-going global economic change”.

Looking to the future, the report concludes that the upcoming wave of technological advances, especially artificial intelligence and robotics, raises a number of issues, particularly around the future of jobs.

Trade from the Sporting Goods Industry perspective

On Day 2, we attended another fascinating session on “Trade behind the Scenes: A Sporting Goods Industry Perspective”. Representatives from the Brazilian Association for Sporting Goods Industry and Commerce, Nike and Adidas examined the benefit of the WTO’s trade facilitation and impressively illustrated the practical impact of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement through Latin American experiences of the sporting goods sector.

The focus then shifted to the importance of speedy product introduction into markets and the impact of administrative custom requirements. While changing fashions and lean manufacture are dominating their agendas, an increasing number of technical import requirements are becoming problematic. Panellists also explored policies that make GSP more inclusive by expanding product coverage and employing more liberal origin rules.

To understand more about customs controls you should consider studying the IOE&IT’s “Diploma in World Customs Compliance & Regulations”.

Ending Modern Slavery

Like the previous days, Day 3 of the WTO Public Forum was packed with a huge range of sessions and events. The session on “Ending Modern Slavery in Global Supply Chains: Challenges, Strategies and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” was particularly interesting.  

The session discussed how more and more multinational corporations (MNCs) are coming under ever-greater scrutiny in relation to human rights protection.  The panel and the audience agreed that legislation like the Modern Slavery Act (MSA 2015) represent ground-breaking steps forward, but more needs to be done to meet the SDGs by 2030.  If you’re interested in this topic, the IOE&IT offers its members in-house training solutions, delivered at a location of your choice, and this could cover Modern Slavery in Global Supply Chains.

The next generation of international trade

Looking to the future, we were intrigued by a session on “the next generation of trade - International eTrade”. The organisers announced ‘International eTrade’ as the "replacement" of traditional trade as we know it, and the product of recent social phenomena such as globalisation and digitisation. A new “International eTrade” will break the time and space barriers of traditional trade.

A report by the CCIEE (China Center for International Economic Exchanges) introduced theory and a policy framework for “International eTrade” that aimed to provide strategic guidance and practical recommendations for policy makers and trade practitioners, particularly SMEs, to better embrace the new trend and access to global market.

Ending day 3 we attended the working session on the “Globalisation of SMEs through Trade-Opportunities for developing economies”. SMEs are the largest employers in the UK, yet large companies continue to dominate international trade due to their critical mass, organisational reach and the expensive technologies they posses.

With the advent of new business platforms, the increased role of IT, and the increasing openness of the global economy, SMEs around the world now have the potential to play a bigger role in international trade. This is what the IOE&IT would like to focus on. In the session we looked at the changing international trade landscape, assessed new opportunities and ways to address the old challenges that remain. Together we explored the potential of a new multilateral trading system that promotes the inclusive participation of SMEs in global markets.

Can’t wait till next year

lesley and arne at wto

The WTO Public Forum is a unique outreach event that allows companies involved in importing, exporting and international trade, like the IOE&IT, to really understand where future exciting opportunities lie and where major challenges exist. It was a fantastic event and we are looking forward to discussing the future of trade in 2018.

Further reading

Executive Summary of the World Trade Report - 2017