The 11th World Chambers Congress got underway in Rio de Janeiro yesterday bringing together over 1,000 chamber and business leaders from over 100 countries.

The first day of the Congress examined a wide variety of topics facing the international trade system today, including disruption, blockchain, smart cities, and more.

Here are 5 key takeaways:

1). Bold leadership for people and planet

The Congress opening ceremony featured a rousing rendition of the Brazilian national anthem performed by the Youth Symphonic Orchestra of Rio.

In his opening address, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO discussed the importance of business leadership in bringing peace and prosperity to all.

Most notably, Mr Denton announced the launch of the Chambers Climate Coalition, which calls upon business leaders to mitigate human-induced climate change. “As a group, we are committed to climate action and to living up to the imperative to limit global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees Celsius,” he said.

Supporting the Coalition, Hamad Buamim, Chair of the World Chambers Federation and President and CEO of Dubai Chambers of Commerce and Industry called on delegates to make business work for everyone, every day, everywhere. Mr Buamim said: “We must work to promote a new type of capitalism for the 21st century and the future – one that puts people and society ahead of bottom line profits.”

2). Confronting Disruption

During the Congress Opening Plenary session, Mr Denton moderated a panel comprising business leaders, policymakers and heads of chambers of commerce from around the world to discuss the ever-changing dynamics faced by global business.

Alan Wolff, Deputy Director, World Trade Organization (WTO), addressed the rising threat of populism and how the international community is continuing to promote inclusive growth for all.

“The chances of success will be greatly improved if the chambers here today rally to the cause…we need to save the multilateral system,” he said.

Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director, International Trade Centre, underscored the vital role of chambers and business in responding to simultaneous digital, social, and ecological revolutions and the importance of unleashing the full power of SMEs, particularly women owed and young businesses.

Katyrin Sergey, President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce, and Yu Jianlong, Secretary General of China Chamber of International Commerce, both highlighted the detrimental impact of tariffs as barriers to international trade.

In his closing statement Marcos Prado Trojyo, Brazilian Finance Minister, emphasised that countries and chambers of commerce need to be prepared to react to the emergence of a new cycle of globalisation. “Nations become more prosperous not when they run away from globalisation cycles, but when they envision, structure and implement a plan to adapt to the changing conditions of the international trade system,” he said.

3). The future of smart cities

With more and more people moving to cities, policymakers and business must work together to create sustainable solutions to resolve overcrowding, housing demands, and increased pollution. A second plenary session on envisioning a digitally enabled world saw panellists showcase how technology can improve city management and living standards for all.

Marcelo Crivella, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, and Pablo Rivadeneira, Chief of Staff to Mayor Felipe Alessandri of Santiago, shared case studies of how new LED lighting projects and neighbourhood surveillance systems have improved their respective cities.

Transportation networks using renewable energy, the expansion of cycle lanes, and the creation of new pedestrianized walkways – these are ways that cities are adapting to the ongoing threat posed by climate change. Caio Franco, Head of Global Regulatory Affairs at Grow (Grin + Yellow), described the growing popularity of electric scooters and bike share programmes around the world, including Rio de Jainero.

The session also saw how new forms of technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of things (IoT), were enabling the collection of valuable data to help policymakers and business to optimise public services – such as transportation networks, infrastructure, and development projects – through informed decision making. Using collected data, city managers today can allocate resources more efficiently and effectively to conserve energy, reduce consumption and improve the livelihood of residents.

Vincent Subilia, Director General of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce explain how Geneva is analysing the parking behaviour of its citizens to implement a new smart parking system, based on data collected from sensors. Meanwhile, other cities, such as Moscow, emphasised education and public healthcare as part of their urban planning strategy.

4). Exploring Blockchain

The potential benefits of blockchain and distributed ledger technology for business were highlighted during a dedicated day one plenary session. Dorjee Sun, CEO, Perlin Networks, and Emmanuelle Ganne, Senior Analyst, World Trade Organization, identified applications of blockchain that could improve efficiency, security, accountability and trust for business.

Entrepreneurs and technical experts led an interactive workshop “Everything you wanted to know about blockchain, but were too afraid to ask.” Gerrie Smits, a digital strategist and blockchain consultant, kicked off the workshop with an entertaining demonstration on value chains and optimisation. The workshop also covered more specialised topics related to blockchain, including bitcoin mining and cryptocurrencies.

5). Best Unconventional Project

A highlight of the Congress, World Chambers Competition presentations got underway highlighting chamber innovation in the category for “Best Unconventional Project”. Finallists presented their projects to the Competition Jury whose final decisions will be announced during a special ceremony during the Congress Gala to be held on Friday evening.

The 11th World Chambers Congress continues on today with sessions analysing trade facilitation, market regulations, and dispute resolution.

The International Chamber of Commerce is preparing for the publication of Incoterms® 2020, an update of the renowned regulations that define the responsibilities of buyers and sellers operating in the international trade system.

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