Hanne Melin of eBay’s Public Policy Lab recently appeared on a panel focused on “Leveraging Trade Facilitation and E-Commerce” as part of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Aide for Trade Review 2017. This year’s Aid for Trade Review looked at the theme of "Promoting Trade, Inclusiveness and Connectivity for Sustainable Development”.
The Session at which Hanne participated explored ways in which the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement on one hand and the opportunities arising from the tremendous growth of E-Commerce on the other can contribute to economic development; what are the links between the two and how can we reap the full potentials. Mr. Ernani Checcucci, Director, Capacity Building for the World Customs Organization served as the moderator and representatives of Finland, the Uganda Revenue Service, South Africa, and Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammerarbeit (GIZ) also participated in the discussion.
Hanne explained in her remarks that online commerce platform lowers in particular the costs of connecting, communicating, and creating trust. This is possible through the Global Empowerment Network, a new model of trade that comprises four building blocks empowering independent micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to reach global customers:
- Connectivity to the global Internet at low cost without gatekeepers
- Global platform-based marketplaces
- Global payment services
- Efficient, modern and “connected” package-level logistics and delivery services
These four building blocks lower trade costs by somewhere around six times and fundamentally change the conditions for trade. Hanne made the point that facilitating trade participation for MSMEs is fundamentally about public policy measures ensuring access to the four building blocks. She also highlighted how current efforts around the world to lower or eliminate customs de Minimis in order to impose sales or consumption taxes on online commerce is a major barrier for remote MSMEs seeking to trade via the Global Empowerment Network. These taxes especially hurt the enterprises in developing and emerging markets as the beneficiaries of the inclusive economic growth provided by this new model of trade.
Unfortunately, the session ran out of time, as Hanne planned to conclude by detailing success stories in Germany and the United States in which eBay provided opportunities for merchants and elementary school students to take their businesses online, advance entrepreneurship and connect with global customers. Hanne thought these stories were a good vehicle to deliver recommendations, which included developing public-private initiatives to raise awareness of how MSMEs in particular could participate in trade, revising school curriculum to include a focus on platform-enabled MSME trade, and lowering the costs to market for remote MSMEs.
To listen to audio of the discussion, please visit this link and scroll down to Session 42.