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Technology has significantly transformed the world’s economy. The ability to obtain instantaneous data flows worldwide, and the digitisation of information have enabled new business models and transformed the composition of trade. The impact of cross-border data flows on gross domestic product (GDP) growth is now larger than the impact of the traditional flow of goods.

The fact that digital flows also underpin and enable every other kind of traditional cross-border flow helps to explain this changing scenario: even when ships carry physical products, customers increasingly retrieve, order, and pay for them online. This is an increasing trend not only in developed countries, but also in developing ones. The significant penetration of mobile phones in the developing world has allowed for the emergence of mobile payments, money transfers, and micro-financing services.

The digitalisation of trade brought about numerous advantages for consumers. It has increased consumer choice, allowed access to different markets, and to less time-consuming online banking and e-payment operations. At the same time, it has created significant challenges for policymakers and regulators, who try to apply existing international trade norms to the context of cyberspace, in which the ‘cross-border’ element is much more fluid.

Through a series of activities, DiploFoundation addresses a practical need: to assist governmental and non-governmental actors to better understand the implications that digitisation and the Internet bring to trade discussions, and to help them reap the benefits of the digital economy. In parallel, the GIP Digital Watch observatory, operated by Diplo, maintains regular updates on e-commerce, taxation, consumer protection and the growth of virtual currencies.
 

Featured: Digital Commerce Capacity Development: preparing trade professionals for the challenges of the digital economy

The publication presents the thematic approach, methodology, achievements and lessons learned from a capacity development initiative on e-commerce jointly offered in 2017/2018 by DiploFoundation, CUTS International Geneva, the International Trade Centre (ITC), the Geneva Internet Platform(GIP), and delivered with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The initiative consisted of a comprehensive training programme designed to address a practical need: to assist governmental and non-governmental actors – especially in developing countries and LDCs – to better understand the implications that digitisation and the Internet bring to trade discussions, and to help them reap the benefits of the digital economy.

Current situation and challenges



Policy discussions at the national level, in regional trade agreements and at the World Trade Organization (WTO) reveal a growing interplay between trade and digital policy agendas. The inclusion of digital regulatory aspects in trade negotiations is not necessarily a new phenomenon. Discussions on digital commerce have traditionally touched on online consumer protection, privacy, and authentication – the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 1998 framework on e-commerce is an example of this. However, the explicit connection between trade issues and topics of a more technical nature has only recently been established on international and regional levels.

Policy discussions at the national level, in regional trade agreements and at the World Trade Organization (WTO) reveal a growing interplay between trade and digital policy agendas. The inclusion of digital regulatory aspects in trade negotiations is not necessarily a new phenomenon. Discussions on digital commerce have traditionally touched on online consumer protection, privacy, and authentication – the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 1998 framework on e-commerce is an example of this. However, the explicit connection between trade issues and topics of a more technical nature has only recently been established on international and regional levels.

In regional and mega-regional trade agreements (RTAs), specific Internet provisions are being included. More than half of WTO members have signed at least one RTA that contains a standalone digital commerce provision. Nowadays, there are 60 RTAs worldwide with embedded standalone digital commerce chapters, along with more than 10 RTAs with digital-trade-relevant provisions in their texts. Among the issues currently included in the RTAs:      

  • Intermediary liability, a topic which encompasses the legal responsibility of Internet platforms, as well as safe harbours and limitations to this responsibility.
  • The balance between personal data protection, privacy, and cross-border data transfers.
  • Measures to be taken to control spam.
  • Network neutrality as a trade facilitation measure.
  • Cyber-espionage.

At the WTO, member states tabled several contributions in the run-up to the 11th Ministerial Conference, which took place in 2018, in Buenos Aires. Many of them highlighted digital-related areas in which regulation could strengthen consumer confidence and boost digital commerce, such as privacy and data protection, cybersecurity, encryption, data flows and data localisation, access to the source code, interoperability, and fostering paperless trade. This new scenario brought considerable challenges from the perspective of trade negotiators and practitioners, due to the growing complexity of discussions.

E-commerce capacity development



Against the background of current challenges, a multidisciplinary approach to capacity development is necessary. Diplo offers a comprehensive training programme designed to assist governmental and non-governmental actors to better understand what digitisation and the Internet bring to trade discussions, and to help them reap the benefits of the digital economy.

The key component of the project is a course on Digital Commerce jointly offered by Diplo, CUTS International, Geneva, the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP).

The programme helps both practitioners and policymakers to:

  • Understand the global implications of digitalisation in trade discussions;
  • Access a vast array of good practices and case studies;
  • Participate more meaningfully in trade-related international forums; and
  • Learn how global rules can facilitate development and leverage them for national benefits.

Graduation ceremony of the Digital commerce course Jan-Mar 2018

Against the background of current challenges, a multidisciplinary approach to capacity development is necessary. Diplo offers a comprehensive training programme designed to assist governmental and non-governmental actors to better understand what digitisation and the Internet bring to trade discussions, and to help them reap the benefits of the digital economy.

The key component of the project is a course on Digital Commerce jointly offered by Diplo, CUTS International, Geneva, the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP).

The programme helps both practitioners and policymakers to:

  • Understand the global implications of digitalisation in trade discussions;
  • Access a vast array of good practices and case studies;
  • Participate more meaningfully in trade-related international forums; and
  • Learn how global rules can facilitate development and leverage them for national benefits.

Graduation ceremony of the Digital commerce course Jan-Mar 2018

 

While completing the Digital Commerce course, the participants benefit from:

A multidisciplinary knowledge of course partners and faculty, with extensive experience in the fields of international trade, digital policies, and Internet governance.

A thematic approach that covers the increasing interplay between trade and digital policy issues, with such topics as:

  • data flows
  • data localisation
  • cybersecurity
  • data protection
  • e-payments
  • taxation
  • consumer protection
  • the implication of emerging technologies for digital trade, such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and 3D printing

An innovative methodology, beyond a typical training course, allowing them to:

  • remain ‘on-the-job’ during the course;
  • immediately apply new knowledge in the daily routines;
  • bring the challenges and questions faced at work to class discussions; and
  • benefit from the faculty members' experience and mentoring.

The just-in-time nature of the course: with the discussions and analyses also covering breaking news and the most recent developments.

The courses are conducted either entirely online or follow a blended learning approach, which mixes online learning and face-to-face meetings. The average duration of the course varies from 6 to 8 weeks.

Feedback from course participants can be found in this video.

Capacity development portfolio of activities



Course on Digital Commerce

Three editions of the course have been delivered by partner organisations.

  • First edition (May‒June 2017): A six-week blended learning course, combining online and face-to-face interaction, was offered to Geneva-based diplomats and e-commerce practitioners.
  • Second edition (September‒November 2017): An eight-week course was conducted entirely online, offered to capital-based officials, policymakers, and non-governmental actors from developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs).
  • Third edition (January‒March 2018): A six-week blended learning course was offered to Geneva-based staff from the permanent missions of developing countries and LDCs.

 

Graduation ceremony of the Digital commerce course Jan-Mar 2018

Webinars

Webinars are an excellent way to share knowledge and to allow interaction between participants and experts in the field. In 2017, two webinars on digital commerce were offered. The first was organised by way of a partnership between two members of the eTrade for All initiative: Diplo and the e-Residency programme in Estonia. It focused on how e-Residency can facilitate access to global markets by enabling the establishment of an EU company. The second webinar discussed blockchain and virtual currencies, and how they impact digital commerce.

The recordings of the webinars can be found in the multimedia section.

Online publications

A series of online publications on aspects related to digital commerce, providing an overview of international discussions on this issue, were published online. They were widely publicised through social media, contributing to raising awareness and disseminating knowledge on digital commerce. In order to see the list of available publications, please visit our section on research and publications.

Course on Digital Commerce

Three editions of the course have been delivered by partner organisations.

  • First edition (May‒June 2017): A six-week blended learning course, combining online and face-to-face interaction, was offered to Geneva-based diplomats and e-commerce practitioners.
  • Second edition (September‒November 2017): An eight-week course was conducted entirely online, offered to capital-based officials, policymakers, and non-governmental actors from developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs).
  • Third edition (January‒March 2018): A six-week blended learning course was offered to Geneva-based staff from the permanent missions of developing countries and LDCs.

 

Graduation ceremony of the Digital commerce course Jan-Mar 2018

Webinars

Webinars are an excellent way to share knowledge and to allow interaction between participants and experts in the field. In 2017, two webinars on digital commerce were offered. The first was organised by way of a partnership between two members of the eTrade for All initiative: Diplo and the e-Residency programme in Estonia. It focused on how e-Residency can facilitate access to global markets by enabling the establishment of an EU company. The second webinar discussed blockchain and virtual currencies, and how they impact digital commerce.

The recordings of the webinars can be found in the multimedia section.

Online publications

A series of online publications on aspects related to digital commerce, providing an overview of international discussions on this issue, were published online. They were widely publicised through social media, contributing to raising awareness and disseminating knowledge on digital commerce. In order to see the list of available publications, please visit our section on research and publications.

Just-in-time reporting from e-commerce events



Diplo and the Geneva Internet Platform provide just-in-time reporting from key digital commerce-related events, such as the UNCTAD e-commerce week and the WTO Public Forum. This has enhanced the accessibility of discussions taking place in Geneva, in accordance with sustainable development goal number 16 on, ‘peace, justice and strong institutions’, supporting the following targets, in particular:

Diplo and the Geneva Internet Platform provide just-in-time reporting from key digital commerce-related events, such as the UNCTAD e-commerce week and the WTO Public Forum. This has enhanced the accessibility of discussions taking place in Geneva, in accordance with sustainable development goal number 16 on, ‘peace, justice and strong institutions’, supporting the following targets, in particular:

  • Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels;
  • Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels;
  • Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance.

 

UNCTAD e-commerce week 2018
 

   WTO Public Forum 2017
 

  UNCTAD e-commerce week 2017

 

Diplo's membership in the eTrade for All initiative



The eTrade for all initiative uses a multistakeholder approach to connect the dots between beneficiary countries, partners, and donors to enable more businesses and people to benefit from e-commerce. At the heart of the initiative is the eTrade for all online platform. This information hub helps developing countries navigate the wealth of technical and financial services they can use to drive development through e-commerce. Through the platform, countries can connect with potential partners, learn about trends and best practices, access up-to-date e-commerce data, and be informed about upcoming e-commerce events. Diplo is one of the members of the eTrade for All initiative, making resources related to capacity building and the development of skills available.

The eTrade for all initiative uses a multistakeholder approach to connect the dots between beneficiary countries, partners, and donors to enable more businesses and people to benefit from e-commerce. At the heart of the initiative is the eTrade for all online platform. This information hub helps developing countries navigate the wealth of technical and financial services they can use to drive development through e-commerce. Through the platform, countries can connect with potential partners, learn about trends and best practices, access up-to-date e-commerce data, and be informed about upcoming e-commerce events. Diplo is one of the members of the eTrade for All initiative, making resources related to capacity building and the development of skills available.

Training



Digital Commerce Geneva

Events




Multimedia



Photos

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