Opinion

Trade Finance Global: Increased cooperation on trade and technology policies: a pressing challenge for governments

World Trade Symposium

Can governments and trade frameworks keep up with technology?

One of the key issues we will still be talking about in November is whether governments and trade frameworkscan keep up with technology. This has always been important but given the impact of technology on all areas of our lives and the speed with which it is developing, it’s clear we need global frameworks – particularly to govern data exchange and security.

The challenge is that three spheres of influence have evolved: the EU, where privacy is the driving force; the US, where large technology firms have so much influence; and China, where the State has access to multiple layers of data.

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While such disparity does not bode well for either global standards or world trade, it was encouraging to see 76 countries from the World Trade Organization (WTO) agree to begin negotiations for trade-related aspects of electronic commerce. If successful, the talks will result in a multilateral legal framework that consumers and businesses could rely on to make it easier and safer to buy, sell and do business online.

Trade wars

However, the current war of words, sanctions and tariffs, particularly between the US and China, could jeopardise the progress being made under the auspices of the WTO.

How will this situation play out in the future? The World Economic Forum Future Council on Trade and Investment has outlined four scenarios the world might move into, depending on geopolitical and economic factors.

Open international trade is the most optimistic scenario, when countries come together to cooperate, and trade flows move easily across borders. Major economies jointly commit to address points of conflict and collaborate to revitalize the WTO through ‘plurilateral’ negotiations.

If competing coalitions emerge, along the lines of EU v US v China with their currently very different dynamics, countries cooperate. But much of this co-operation is shaped by emerging structural rifts over the role of the state in governing data flows, investment and advanced industrial technology that holds national security applications.

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