CUTS

The Role of South-South cooperation and digital Technology in Structuring a Globally-Inclusive Post-COVID-19 Economic Architecture for Increased Trade Facilitation

Jithin Sabu

The role of digitalization has become critical within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. While digitalization was embedded in many domains prior to the pandemic, the latter created what is known as ‘new normal’ conditions characterised by reduced physical contact and restricted movement. These changes rapidly increased the digitalization of transactions between and among people, pushing a new scope of tradable goods and services and fostering new areas of mutual cooperation among Southern economies, both technologically and financially. As such, this session discussed how the gradually increasing share of South-South trade, and its resilience in the face of COVID-linked disruption, can inform a thorough theoretical and empirical understanding of the nature and implications of South-South trade in building back better in a post-COVID-19 world.

It was noted that the ICT based technology and digitisation has helped southern economies to boost trade and investment. The global south-south cooperation has to be increased and multilateral cooperation in knowledge sharing and partnership brokering is needed for the overall welfare and development of the global south. New opportunities for South-South cooperation can be opened up by building regional cloud-computing infrastructure, strengthening regional broadband infrastructure and promoting regional digital payments, especially in Africa.

The panelists pointed that along with transforming the substance, patterns and possibilities of international trade, the digital revolution is also accelerating trade transactions. This revolution could unlock new efficiencies and gains for businesses and consumers. Several important challenges remain in developing countries, and particularly Africa: (1) inadequate infrastructure, such as limited broadband connectivity; (2) lack of ICT skills; (3) problematic policy and regulatory issues, which represent increasing costs to digital companies, such as onerous legal liability regimes and data privacy rules; (4) limited use and adoption by small businesses of digital technologies, such as e-commerce and online payments; (5) the traditional challenges to cross-border trade, such as complicated customs procedures and expensive logistics; and 6) national digital infrastructure and regulations that are incomplete and do not interact optimally with those of other economies. These challenges are to be jointly addressed through global south-south cooperation.

Discussions also highlighted that the battleground for achieving SDGs lies in rural Africa and rural South Asia. For realisation of SDG targets, massive investments in a range of sectors over a prolonged period of time is required. Leveraging global south-south financing and involving the private sector to achieve the SDGs at a national level in many developing countries remains to be more fully harnessed. Global south should consider a new south-south development cooperation finance architecture. The panelists said that, global south-south cooperation should be developed in Research and Development, and innovation, apart from trade. The pandemic has brought an opportunity for the countries to think and and act for sustainable solutions to build a better tomorrow.

On the panel were Ms. Bineswaree Bolaky, Economic Affairs Officer, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA; Dr. George Kararach, Lead Economist, African Development Bank (AfDB); Myriam Ramzy & Professor Chahir Zaki, Cairo University. Dr. Hany Besada, Senior Research/Programme Advisor, UNOSSC, moderated the session. Dr. Adel Abdellatif, Director a.i., UNOSSC gave the opening remarks while Dr. Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director for Programme and Operations, UNOSSC, gave the closing remarks.

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