The World Trade Organization, in conjunction with the Ministry of Commerce, released a Chinese-language version of its annual report at the China International Import Expo, giving Chinese people a better understanding of world trends in trade, trade policy and the multilateral trading system.
The report was translated by the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, a ministry institution, and published by Shanghai People’s Publishing House.
“The report is now much more accessible for Chinese audiences,” said Roberto Azevedo, director-general of WTO.
This year’s WTO report examines how digital technologies are transforming global commerce. It considers the ways in which digital technologies affect international trade and the extent of potential forthcoming changes and discusses the consequences for international trade cooperation.
The WTO believes digital technologies will bring both opportunities and challenges for the world economy and trade and change the way cross-border transactions are made. To cope with the arrival of a digital trade era, countries, including China, should continue to work in fields such as infrastructure construction, human capital, trade policies and a national framework of regulatory and intellectual property protection.
Titled “The future of world trade: How digital technologies are transforming global commerce,” the World Trade Report 2018 finds that digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, 3D printing and blockchain have been made achievable by the exponential rise in computing power, bandwidth and digital information.
Digital technologies are reshaping consumer habits by shifting purchases online through the widespread use of Internet-enabled devices which provide consumers with direct access to online markets, the report says.
On the supply side, digital technologies allow for easier entry and increased product diversity, making it easier for firms to produce, promote and distribute products at a lower cost.
New business models have emerged, with digital technologies as their main underpinning while digital platforms are becoming the new marketplace amid rapid expansion in Internet access. Ever-increasing online visibility, through interactive websites, apps and social media, has become embedded in marketing strategies, allowing businesses to interact with customers and thereby boost online sales. Companies also rely increasingly on artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to analyze consumers’ online shopping experiences in order to profile preferences and adapt products accordingly.
The benefits of digital technologies notwithstanding, they are also giving rise to a number of concerns, including market concentration, loss of privacy and security threats, the digital divide, and the question of whether digital technologies have really increased productivity.
For governments, important questions that arise are whether the new competition dynamics raise policy questions that they must address and whether there is a role for them in helping small firms seize the new opportunities.
International trade costs declined by 15 percent between 1996 and 2014 and new technologies will help further reduce trade costs, the report says. It predicts trade could grow yearly by 1.8 to 2 percentage points more until 2030 as a result of falling costs, amounting to a cumulative growth of 31 to 34 percentage points over 15 years.