Jack Ma briefed the Director-General on his ideas in this area, including working with government officials to help them to design policies and regulations which are informed more closely by the problems that many small businesses face. He also outlined the proposal for the establishment of an Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP). This platform would be a way of bringing together the private sector (led by SMEs), governments, international organizations and all other stakeholders with the aim of establishing a more favourable and standardised regulatory environment for e-commerce. Jack Ma welcomed DG Azevêdo’s and the WTO’s partnership and participation.
In addition, they discussed ways to ensure that the voices of SMEs from around the world are heard more clearly in the policy debate, building on existing forums such as the WTO's Trade Dialogues series. They also exchanged views on how the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, due to take place in Buenos Aires this December, could support SMEs and more inclusive trade.
Speaking after the meeting, the Director-General said:
“It was a great pleasure to welcome Jack to the WTO and to continue the conversation that we had in Hangzhou last September. The e-commerce debate has come a long way since then. WTO members are waking up to the power of e-commerce to drive development. There is a thriving discussion in Geneva, looking at potential ways forward – but we have more to do if we are to extend the benefits of e-commerce to SMEs around the world. Members need to identify the specific steps that they want to take.
“This is where the private sector can play a crucial role. Business brings intelligence of how things are on the ground. When we bring that first-hand knowledge together with real political will from governments, then we can deliver changes which will make a real difference. That's why the WTO has been seeking to bring the voice of business and other stakeholders into the debate. I strongly welcome Jack's engagement and the ideas that he, and others, are bringing to the table.
"Around 98% of world trade currently takes place under WTO rules. This institution is where reforms on digital trade would have to be taken forward. Our recent experience in delivering the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement – the biggest global trade deal this century – shows that we can make real progress here, particularly in delivering commitments combined with practical technical and capacity-building assistance. I look forward to working with WTO members and stakeholders to see what concrete steps we may be able to take in this area.”
DG Azevêdo and Jack Ma also took part in a high-level panel session at UNCTAD, entitled ‘Digital Transformation For All: Empowering Entrepreneurs and Small Business’, alongside UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, and Consumers International Director-General Amanda Long, at the Palais des Nations, Geneva.