Digital technologies and trade
The COVID-19 pandemic had an accelerating effect on digitalization. This digital transformation has, however, exposed some important shortcomings in many developing countries. The WTO-led Aid for Trade initiative plays a crucial role in overcoming constraints by mobilizing resources.
Aid for Trade
Digital connectivity was one of the themes of “Aid for Trade at a Glance 2017 – Promoting Connectivity”. The publication focuses on the support required by developing countries to bridge the digital divide and thereby improve their participation in global trade. A WTO Working Paper – entitled “Digital connectivity & e-commerce: Overview of financing flows and examples of Aid for Trade support” issued in 2018, presents examples of Aid-for-Trade projects and compiles data on ODA flows for digital connectivity.
The COVID-19 pandemic had an accelerating effect on digitalization. This digital transformation has, however, exposed some important shortcomings in many developing countries. A recent workshop identified limited ICT infrastructure, absence of regulatory frameworks, affordability gaps and lack of digital skills as key limitations for many developing countries, including least-developed countries (LDCs).
The WTO-led Aid-for-Trade Initiative plays a crucial role in overcoming constraints by mobilizing resources and holding biennial Global Reviews. The Eighth Global Review – entitled “Empowering Connected, Sustainable Trade” - will see the launch of a publication that looks into the role of trade in the post-COVID context, with a chapter dedicated to digital connectivity, e-commerce and sustainable trade.
The General Council was asked in 1998 to establish a comprehensive work programme to examine all trade-related issues of global e-commerce, taking into account the needs of developing countries (WT/MIN(98)/DEC/2). The aim of enhancing internet connectivity and access to ICT in LDCs was taken up within the work programme from 2011 onwards (WT/L/843).
The eTrade for All Initiative was launched in 2016, bringing together the WTO, UNCTAD, EIF, ITC and the World Bank. Nonetheless, LDCs continue to face multifaceted challenges in the digital economy (WT/GC/W/787). The digital divide, the potential of the digital economy and support provided to LDCs in this field are regularly discussed by WTO members.
- Meeting of the Sub-Committee on Least Developed Countries, 16 February 2022 (WT/COMTD/LDC/M/92)
- Members share experiences on e-commerce, talk LDC services waiver and services commitments (meeting of the Council for Trade in Services on 11 March 2022)
This report, prepared for the 5th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5), highlights that further international efforts are needed to help LDCs increase their participation in global trade and confront the enormous challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This publication looks at how the rapid adoption of digital technologies could help developing countries increase their participation in world trade. It also reviews the role that domestic policies and international cooperation can play in creating a more prosperous and inclusive future for these countries.
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