Tech companies urged to make e-commerce a force for inclusion

open trade
World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevêdo

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo made the call after taking part a discussion in San Francisco, US that focused on the role of trade policy in accelerating the growth of e-commerce and the digital economy around the world.

During his visit on August 4-5, he attend a roundtable organized by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) at Facebook’s headquarters, said a press release today.

“E-commerce is a transformative force in global trade, supporting growth, development and job creation,” Azevedo told the discussion.

“By reducing the trade costs associated with physical distance, e-commerce allows businesses to access the global marketplace, reach a broader network of buyers and participate in international trade. In this way, e-commerce can also be a force for inclusion.”

The discussion was attended by representatives of tech companies, ranging from start-ups, represented by Allied for Startups, to industry leaders including Facebook, Google, Alibaba, PayPal and eBay.

The WTO director general said broader dissemination of such technologies means that the trade opportunities generated by e-commerce are also available to businesses in developing countries, with some of them making significant headway in recent years.

“But there is a long, long way to go. For example, Africa and the Middle-East share less than 2 per cent of the world e-commerce market. Similarly, we must ensure that e-commerce works as a springboard for smaller companies to compete and reach new markets.”

There is a dynamic debate going on at the WTO right now. Many ideas are circulating and many WTO Members — developed, developing and least-developed — are increasingly interested in e-commerce and the digital economy as an issue for further discussion.

Some have been holding workshops on these issues and presenting ideas on how they could be advanced at the WTO.

“At the same time we’ve seen a surge of private sector engagement in our work. This is very welcome as I think it’s essential that the views of the private sector are heard, including on e-commerce issues,” Azevedo said.

During the visit, he also held meetings with a number of individual tech companies.

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