We are currently experiencing fundamental changes in the patterns of globalization which will have profound implications on current and future trade, development and investment. For instance, within the trade development space, there are currently three important forces playing out in the global policy arena.
– A growing support for trade development especially for developing countries i.e. the newly enshrined WTO Trade Facilities Agreement on Feb 22, 2017 and the regional framework for cross-border paperless trade agreement in ESCAP region in 2016 and the e-Trade for All initiative by UNCTAD announced in 2016, under the Nairobi Meeting.
– A growing resistance to globalization and preferential free trade agreement, have become more apparent in the past decade or so, exacerbated by the economic slow down and jobless growth in specific sectors of the economy.
– Digital technology, the Internet and countless breakthroughs in the field of science and technology, will level the playing field for everyone just as the old adage “Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.” This means developing countries can leapfrog ahead and skip the industrial era straight into the post-industrial development era. Any technology presents both opportunities and threats. But an important factor to consider when adopting digital technology are their implications such as rendering many trade agreements or provisions obsolete and unfit for the digital economy. Or economic development policies that must be examined in greater depth and adapted for the coming changes i.e. technological deflation effect and jobless growth.
Sustainable trade development under the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030 framework has earmarked trade-led development as the strategy to bridge the social and income inequalities. There are undoubtedly many moving parts to this new equation and at the outset, will require a new approach to policy making.
This two-day forum organized by the International Institute for Trade and Development (ITD) is certainly an opportune occasion to shed light and explore new paths towards inclusive and sustainable development in a disruptive world clouded by a revival of populism and growing protectionism.
The endorsement of the new WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and other initiatives to reduce trade cost are helping to level the playing field to smaller businesses and entrepreneurs including from emerging and developing countries to be engaged in more in trade activities. (Session I).
The disruptive impact of the digital revolution is both a source of opportunities and challenges but a fine management of the digital transition will enhance the role of e-commerce as a key tool for inclusiveness in trade and the general theme on Digital Economy and Digital Trade(Session III).
Despite a challenging global environment, growth in Asia has remained steady but in the context of uncertainty, only deeper regional integration and cooperation will help the region, (ASEAN and the CMLVT) to enhance economic resiliency and support inclusive and sustainable development. Deepening ongoing integration such as the AEC (Session II) and exploring new approaches such as the One Belt One Road Initiative (Session IV) will offer the region’s an alternative growth avenue that it could be looking for.
Other solutions to link trade and development for inclusive and sustainable growth will require a new paradigm and a new mindset. In the case of emerging conversation on Global Value Chain (GVC), studies made by World Economic Forum, the World Bank Report and the EU study clearly highlight the significant opportunities Circular Economy presents to developing economies whom are not only well placed to take full advantage of this new economic model but possibly, outpace developed or advanced economies. This model departs from the traditional “take, make, and dispose” approach, which adopts a new approach to production and consumption through a close loop system using the 3Rs (recycle, reuse, repurpose) (Session V).
To overcome obstacles towards Agenda 2030, Asian policymakers need to adapt swiftly to a new development paradigm where economic growth is no longer enough as a policy response to enhance inclusiveness and sustainability goals. This means policymakers must explore alternative development funding beyond the conventional foreign direct investment (or FDI) channels e.g. taxation, social bond (Session VI).
The fourth industrial revolution and the exponential pace of innovation have deep implications on human development and education. From technological innovation, growing youth employment and ageing society, the policies around human capital development must incorporate how future of trade and investment trends will affect production systems and the nature of work while crafting an education system that is fashioned for the times (Session VII).
19 – 20 July 2017 at Pullman King Power Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand