Digitalization and international trade

19 Dec 2017 09:00h - 10:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

The session started with introductions by session chair Mr Torbjörn Fredriksson, Chief of the ICT Policy Section at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). He spoke on the technological advances and the economy and provided a synopsis and highlights from the Information Economy Report 2017:Digitalization and International Trade.

Mr William J. Drake, International Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Zurich, discussed the linking of the Internet and trade policy communities. His discussion focused on Chapter 5 of the Information Economy report 2017-Digitalization and International Trade. He acknowledged the interconnectedness of trade and digitalisation as more trade is being conducted over the Internet. He noted the importance of trade policymakers in factoring in how the Internet itself is governed and operated.

H.E. Mr Julian Braithwaite, UK Permanent Representative to the UN and World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, discussed the three fundamental principles of the Internet: openness, freedom, and security. He also addressed the culture clash between the multistakeholder Internet governance communities and the inter-governmental trade communities, noting that 50% of the world was not connected to the Internet.

Mr Tarek Kamel, Senior Vice President at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), addressed the rapid evolution of technology, the fact that it affects various sectors, that two billion Internet users come from the Global South and how this all affects trade. He noted that the Internet moves much quicker than legislation, saying how issues in the Internet governance arena are impacting ICANN, emphasising the importance of the multistakeholder approach for future advancement.

Ms Anriette Esterhuysen, Director of Global Policy and Strategy at the Association for Progressive Communications, reflected on the processes from the perspective of civil society. She addressed the lack of transparency, the lack of inclusion, and the challenges faced by developing countries. She also considered strengthening the existing economy, noting how the digital economy impacts the existing economy, the risks of exclusion, and overall the positive and negative impacts.   In addition, she provided feedback on the Information Economy report 2017-Digitalization and International Trade.

Ms Marietje Schaake, Member of European Parliament from the Netherlands, addressed how to bridge the gap between the worlds of trade, foreign policy, and diplomacy. She noted how globally skilled companies are setting trends; how rules are evolving and not only through government. She noted that digital trade is evolving and that we need to ensure that it happens through the lens of rules, regulations, and inclusion. She concluded that we should ensure trade happens in a framework of rules that are looking at fundamental principles like fair competition, universal human rights, access for those in developing countries, and inclusiveness.

The panellists met to discuss the linking of trade and the digital communities. This progression is highly likely and that there needs to be rules and regulation present which make allowances for flexibility. Digitalisation of the economy is underway and the power of information and communication technologies must be harnessed. It is noteworthy that some countries remain disconnected and lack Internet access. As such, panellists addressed the Information Economy Report 2017-Digitalization and International Trade which states: ‘…policymaking at the national and international levels needs to mitigate the risk that digitalization could widen existing divides and create new gaps.’

By Natoya Cassius