Towards a more inclusive world. What can trade do?

Umberto Setter

This session addressed how policymakers can ensure trade contributes to inclusive recovery and how the gains from trade can reach the most vulnerable groups, including women, youth and migrant workers. In particular, panellists discussed the preconditions for developing countries to benefit from the growing digital economy, and how best to protect consumers in the digital era. Discussions also underscored the importance of breaking the so-called “silo mentality”, to promote transparency and openness in order to fuel a greener and more inclusive recovery.

Considering some of the necessary conditions for ensuring trade inclusivity, speakers underscored the need for, inter alia: (i) efficient trade regulation and facilitation; (ii) technology and knowledge transfer, which plays a central role in bridging the gap between countries in areas such as technology investment and innovation; (iii) building capacities for access to finance, trade facilitation and logistics; and (iv) addressing socio-economic bottlenecks related to gender, cultural and language barriers, ethnic diversity.

The relationship between trade and human rights was also discussed, stressing that the current crisis is not only health-, social-, or economic-related, but it is a human crisis overall. Speakers advocated in favour of human rights-based approaches to trade policy, catering for the well-being of the most vulnerable communities. Key tools to leverage in this regard may include human rights impact assessments, including in negotiating and trade agreements. Consumer protection was also extensively discussed. While greater connectivity brought about greater choices and information for many consumers, it also created new challenges in relation to privacy, collection of consumers’ data etc.

Taking a closer look at the African continent, discussions noted the potential contribution of the AfCFTA in ensuring that vulnerable groups such as women and youth better benefit from trade. Panellists gave their approach on what are the conditions to help women and youth (as the main forces driving MSMEs) to better benefit from trade. Improving the trade participation of MSMEs could entail, inter alia, simplifying trade regimes; reducing red tape at the border for commercial vehicles; funding and capacity building mechanisms supporting MSMEs’ cross-border commercial relations etc.

Discussing approaches to finance technological development, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) promoted the concept of ‘Society 5.0’ as “a human-centered society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space.” The approach aims to tackle several challenges by going beyond digitalization of the economy only, extending it to all levels of the society.

Finally, panellists discussed the persisting imbalances between small developing and developed economies, and the need for the later to support the former in bridging the technology and development gap. This also extends to the environmental sphere, where the rationale underpinning the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” was recalled.

On the panel were On the panel were Mr. Nobumitsu Hayashi, Deputy Governor, Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC); Ms. Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Mr. Silver Ojakol, Chief of Staff of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat; Ms. Claudia Lima Marques, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil; Ms. Mercedes Aráoz, Professor of Economics, Universidad del Pacifico, and Former Second Vice President of Peru; and the moderator was Ms. Miho Shirotori, Officer in Charge, Division on International Trade and Commodities, UNCTAD.

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