The 2021 Global Trade and Blockchain Forum held on 30 March brought together policy-makers, trade officials and business representatives to discuss how to leverage blockchain technology to enhance the transparency and efficiency of supply chains and trade processes. It also looked into the role of governments in unlocking the potential of these technologies. The event included the launch of a new publication on trade digitalization co-published by the WTO and Trade Finance Global and a new online course on blockchain for trade.
The event, entitled “Accelerating Trade Digitalization through distributed ledger technology”, reviewed the latest developments in blockchain and how digital technologies such as distributed ledger technology (DLT) can help address the risks and inefficiencies in global supply chains to the benefit of all. A distributed ledger is a digital list or database shared among nodes in a distributed network. Blockchain is one type of distributed ledger. More details on the event is available here.
In his opening remarks, Deputy-Director General Xiaozhun Yi said: “The pandemic has brought to the fore the archaism of trade processes still largely based on paper, with dire consequences on business operations in times of lockdowns. It has brought into sharp focus the need to urgently digitalize these outdated paper-based processes. The last 12 months have shown that going digital is no longer optional. It is a matter of survival for many companies, in particular the smallest ones who have been hit very hard by the current crisis.” DDG Yi’s full remarks are available here.
In his keynote speech, the Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, John Denton, said: “The economy cannot be simply put on ice indefinitely. Why prolong the human and economic pain of doing so, when existing technologies can be readily deployed to restore cross-border economic activity while guarding against unfettered spread of the virus? We have spoken for years about the potential for digital platforms and blockchain solutions to democratize access to the global trading system. With struggling SMEs desperately needing new sources of demand, it is high time to finally deliver on that promise if we are to deliver a truly resilient and durable recovery in the years ahead. Governments must lead from the front in this regard.”
In his keynote speech, Lew Chuen Hong, CEO of Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore, said: “While the trade and economic landscape as it stands today remains challenging, all of us are looking beyond the pandemic so as to emerge stronger both as governments and as business and I believe the move towards trade digitization is a key pillar. We must try to harmonize our policies and legal frameworks, and align to open technology standards. These are all the basic foundations for ubiquitous digitalization.”
The event is the second edition of the Global Trade and Blockchain Forum. The first was held in 2018. More information is available here.
“Accelerating Trade Digitalization to Support MSME Financing”, launched today, seeks to identify some of the most pressing challenges related to trade financing for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and explores the potential application of digital technologies to address these challenges. The publication is based on interviews and surveys with experts in the field of MSME financing, including trade financing, and explores the ways that technology can be used to enhance access to financing.
The technologies discussed include cloud computing, optical character recognition , the Internet of Things, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, distributed ledger technology and application programming interfaces.
The publication examines some of the challenges related to MSME financing and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in this area. It examines key digital technologies and their potential benefit to MSME financing and presents case studies of companies utilizing these technologies, the challenges they face, and recommendations for overcoming these challenges.
The publication highlights the need for a multi-pronged approach to unleash the potential of digital technologies to facilitate MSME financing. This includes the need for the development of globally accepted standards and a common framework for leveraging data to better assess financing risk. There is also a need for an enabling regulatory framework that recognizes e-signatures and e-documents and is in line with the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records. Also needed is a trusted global digital identity system for companies. In addition, the publication highlights the importance of bridging the digital divide and raising MSME awareness through education.
The publication can be found here.
New online course
The “Introduction to Blockchain for Trade” online course is a joint project between the WTO and the International Trade Centre (ITC). It will be offered through the ITC SME Trade Academy and WTO E-learning platforms. The course introduces the concept of blockchain and how it can be used in international trade. It is designed for a variety of audiences, including representatives from MSMEs, policy-makers and regulators considering a role for blockchain technology. Advance registration for the course on the ITC Academy is possible via this link. The WTO version of the course will roll out soon.