Trade & investment

ICC calls on governments to do more to maximise the potential of digital trade for inclusive growth

  • 1 October 2018

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 2018 Public Forum kicks off in Geneva, Switzerland this week under the theme ‘Trade 2030’.

Ahead of discussions, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has underscored how new technologies are contributing to making world trade more inclusive and fuelling progress towards the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said:

“New technologies are helping transform world trade for the better, but there’s a current tendency to view their development through a negative lens. What is frequently missed in this assessment is how small businesses, women traders and entrepreneurs are using digital technologies in unprecedented numbers to access global markets, often for the first time in developing countries. If business and government work together with a solutions-oriented approach to technology, I believe we can maximise the potential of digital trade to spur more inclusive growth.”

Far from posing a threat, new technologies are currently being deployed worldwide to advance global development goals.

Potential for inclusive growth – Just as digital technologies have connected people, trends and ideas from around the world, e-commerce gives many businesses access to global markets for the first time—with some of the biggest gains going to groups that have too often been underrepresented in world trade.

Data from eBay shows that SMEs that use online platforms are more than five times more likely to export than those in the traditional economy. Likewise, while women account for only 25% of entrepreneurs in China, they have founded a whopping 55% of new online businesses.

A recent Google video competition taking place within ICC and WTO’s joint Small Business Champions initiative showcases SMEs around the world that explain in their own words how digital technologies are helping them connect with clients, promote their products and balance their books.

Governments must do more – Ensuring digital trade fosters inclusive growth relies on an economy having a solid policy environment and effective digital strategy in place. As governments map out ways to foster the local benefits of digital trade, ICC encourages the following steps:

Develop global e-commerce rules – Navigating the myriad national rules and regulations covering digital trade makes it difficult for companies—especially those small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that lack the resources of their larger counterparts—to take advantage of the opportunities. A new common framework of legal standards for digital trade is needed to help SMEs leverage digital technologies to reach global markets.

Take a holistic approach to developing policy frameworks – There is no one size fits all approach to nurturing the development gains of digital technologies but governments should start by being future-orientated. This means equipping populations with the skills needed to innovate and leverage digital tools, promoting investment and market entry to attain greater network coverage and driving interoperability across policy and regulatory landscapes.

Remove artificial constraints and unjustified localisation measures – Creating artificial constraints to companies’ global supply and value chain planning through data or server localisation restrictions not only increases the costs of doing business; it diminishes the attractiveness of the location for future investment or inclusion in such value chains. Local data storage regulations, for instance, can lead to higher costs for the local companies—especially SMEs—that depend on technologies such as cloud computing.

Avoid imposing custom duties on electronic transmissions at national borders – Electronic transmissions are typically time-sensitive and need to flow seamlessly across borders to be efficient. To stop these transmissions at borders to impose custom duties would unduly disrupt basic business processes that are inherent in electronic delivery.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is the world’s largest and most representative business organisation, representing over 45 million companies and more than 1 billion workers across the globe. The only private sector Observer to the UN General Assembly, ICC plays a key role in creating solutions for economic growth that secure peace and prosperity on a global level