Each year, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) puts on its Public Forum – its annual outreach event that attracts over 1,500 representatives from civil society, academia, business, the media, governments, parliamentarians and inter-governmental organisations. This year, for the first time, techUK will be there and helping shape the global debate on trade.
2018 has already been a crucial year for international trade. Multilateral institutions seem under siege from some quarters and there is the possibility of the first trade war in decades. But at the same time, we can see a world that is becoming ever more connected thanks to the power of tech.
In such a pivotal year, it is right that the WTO is looking towards the future. The theme of this year’s Public Forum is ‘Trade 2030’ and will explicitly look at how technology is changing lives and economies across the globe, and what that will mean for trade over the coming years.
It is ever more important to really explore how the rules that govern the trading system need to adapt to the digital world. The WTO itself was established before the internet was commercialised, and the conventions that have been in place since to hold together the global digital trade are beginning to fray.
The fragile global consensus can already be seen in the renewed call by India and South Africa to ‘rethink’ the moratorium on digital tariffs. The prohibition on charging duties on digital transfers has been in force since 1998, but must be renewed every two years. As techUK has commented, the rule has been a hugely important factor in the development of global e-commerce and will be vital in the ongoing development of new technologies which reduce trade friction, such as 3D printing. Ending that moratorium would be deeply concerning and lead to increased costs for consumers.
With the potential benefits of these new technologies worth trillions to the world economy, there is an urgent need to establish permanent rules to govern this area. New exploratory discussions on e-commerce were launched last year at the Buenos Aires Ministerial Conference which hold out the hope of reaching new rules. All of this makes techUK’s panel, ‘The Rise of Digital: Tech and the Changing Nature of Value Added’, at the Public Forum all the timelier. It will explore how developments like the trade in intangibles and the growth of 3D printing are quickly changing how the world trades and will examine the implications for global institutions and the development agenda. These are the pressing issues of our time and techUK is proud to be at the forefront of discussions.
As a leading digital economy, it is essential that the voice of the UK and its thriving tech sector is heard on the global stage.
In addition to our panel we will be taking a delegation of tech businesses to the WTO Public Forum to demonstrate the strength and breadth of the UK’s digital ecosystem. If your business is interested in attending, or you would like more information about techUK’s panel, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Image credit: The WTO Public Forum 2017 © WTO/Jay Louvion)