The workshop, held at the WTO on 5 July, focused on addressing the challenges that inhibit consumers and entrepreneurs from fully seizing the trade opportunities that e-commerce can bring.
“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. 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”, Director-General Azevêdo said.
Among the obstacles developing countries face in fully participating in e-commerce are high digital infrastructure costs, lack of compliance with legal and fiscal requirements of foreign e-markets, underdeveloped financial and payment systems and low consumer trust.
The workshop also looked at the constraints faced by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in developing countries, which often “do not have the ability to get around these problems”, DG Azevêdo said. Africa and the Middle-East share less than 2 per cent of the world e-commerce market, the workshop heard.
Participants also discussed the role the WTO can play in lowering these barriers, through the development of multilateral rules to harmonize procedures and reduce operational costs. “We could look at how we can support small suppliers to market their products in a timely fashion, with competitive prices and reliable customer support”, DG Azevêdo said. “This would help consumers to have full confidence in buying from MSMEs in the digital environment.”
DG Azevêdo’s full speech is available here.
The event (read the program here) heard presentations from Arancha González, Executive Director of the ITC and Carlos Grau Tanner, Director-General of the Global Express Association; and from representatives of the World Economic Forum, CUTS International, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and Consumer International. The presentations were followed by a discussion with WTO members.