"Free trade is important and it will not go away - it's for us just to make sure we are on top of it."

Those were the words of Mattias Hedwall, Global Head of International Commerce & Trade at Baker & McKenzie International, at the start of the first public session of the Forum's Trade Multistakeholder Conversation on 8 July.

The virtual meeting focused on how to ensure international trade benefits humanity and the planet in the 21st century. Sessions throughout the day focused on: subsidies and industrial policy; the future of the trade system; society, trade and COVID-19; reimagining investment; green trade recovery; digital trade, services and payment; and facilitation via innovation.

Here's a roundup of some key quotes from the public sessions of today's meeting.

"We need to give a real jolt to the whole multilateral trade system."

—John W.H. Denton, Secretary General, International Chamber of Commerce

"All major players should work together to make the WTO great again."

—Shi Jingxia, Professor, China University of International Business and Economics

"When you really think about it, most of what happens in a trade transaction is trading data. By facilitating that, you're really facilitating global trade."

—Alisa DiCaprio, Head of Trade and Supply Chain, R3

"You're seeing Republicans become more trade sceptical and Democrats become more supportive of trade."

—Scott Lincicome, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

"We should continue to ensure that the enabling environment around trade, as well as trade itself, does not create any kind of bias."

—Penelope Naas, Senior Vice-President, International Public Affairs and Sustainability, UPS

"What's really needed is a global trade architecture that's responsive to the new opportunities" afforded by the digital age.

—Karan Bhatia, Vice-President, Government Affairs and Public Policy, Google Inc.

"Digital trade is an opportunity to expand availability, choice and lower the price."

—Jesus Seade, Undersecretary for North America, Secretariat of Foreign Affairs of Mexico

For more on today's sessions, take a look at our highlights blog from the event.