Digital Trade

How can we ensure technology drives new, inclusive trade growth and recovery in the digital age? 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution – associated with rapid technological change and digitalization – has already had a profound impact on the way we trade. Digital payments, data flows and digital services delivery, particularly across borders, are also playing a critical role in response to the COVID-19 pandemic response. Digital trade in services are among the most dynamic sectors in the global economy and could be further harnessed for the recovery process. Emerging technologies such as blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, or the Internet of Things could further alter the trade landscape in years to come.

However, barriers to digital trade exist and in some cases growing, whether due to outdated rules, new forms of protectionism, or as domestic policymakers seek to address novel governance questions without international collaboration. E-commerce entrepreneurs must navigate challenges from last-mile delivery logistics to secure cross-border payments. New data localization policies are emerging and other hurdles are emerging for international digital service supply. The promise of trade technologies to increase efficiency and inclusiveness is being challenged. Disruptive effects on business and the workforce will need to be navigated, while questions on taxing global digital activities are ongoing.

In response, the Forum’s Digital Trade initiative brings policymakers, experts and business together to:

  • Accelerate e-commerce trade preparedness to benefit small businesses and developing economies

  • Build interoperability for global data flows, including through trade frameworks and regulatory cooperation, and explore the effects and requirements of rapidly expanding digital trade in services

  • Map new trade technologies – including cloud services, DLT and 3D printing – and driving discussion on policies to balance gains versus risks

  • Support the international functionality of payment systems and related supply chain information flow

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