1 September 2020

75 for UN75: A Conversation on Rethinking Trade

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, and as part of its 75th anniversary initiative (UN75), United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) is hosting the "75 for UN75: 75 Minutes of Conversation" series of online dialogues with academics, educators, researchers and students around the world, to discuss their priorities for the future, obstacles to achieving them, and the role of global cooperation in managing global issues. On 20 August 2020 UNAI hosted a webinar on the theme “Rethinking Trade” as part of this series.

Prior to the Second World War, economies relied on predictive analyses to function and thrive. However, when confronted with the unprecedented social and economic impact unleashed by the war, economies around the world were unprepared and ill-equipped to respond. Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of building sustainable economies. The ``Rethinking Trade” webinar addressed the importance of leveraging relationships between academics and businesses, building trusted networks to facilitate transnational trade and practicing sustainable production and consumption.

Following a musical performance by Felipe Queipo from the United Nations, Robin van Puyenbroek, Executive Director for Business Development at the World Trade Centers Association, opened the discussion by pointing out the importance of reinventing trade by leveraging the intersection of academia and business. He recognized the unfolding new form of digital globalization as a phenomenon that requires a trusted environment for people to connect with one another through technology. However, given the inequality of internet access, Mr. Puyenbroek urged a “focus on creating a more universal economic development, which we can support through trade capacity building and by providing tools and knowledge to create businesses, marketplaces and attract investments,” that will boost the world economy.

Professor Jayashree Watal of Georgetown University emphasized knowledge exchange as a significant aspect of trade. She highlighted “rising economic nationalism” as the biggest threat to the world economy today, hindering the flow and exchange of knowledge. Professor Watal argued that today’s top trade priority is to reform the World Trade Organization so it can effectively regulate the cross-border flow of goods, services and knowledge and expressed her hope that academics and other stakeholders will take these ideas forward.

Andrea Garwood, Director of the World Trade Center in Trieste, Italy and Executive Director of Sales for a wine exporting company, offered her perspective on trade as a small business owner navigating the effects of the pandemic. Ms. Garwood argued that the COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerability of world economies, noting that trustworthy trade relationships amongst businesses and countries will be a key defense moving forward. Ms. Garwood implored businesses to start operating in a way that focuses on people and relationships and to “put people first, even above economic gain.”

Dr. María Priscila Ramos, a researcher at the Interdisciplinary Institute of Political Economy at the University of Buenos Aires, UNAI SDG Hub for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12, shared her insights on how trade can enhance responsible consumption and production as envisioned by SDG 12. “Production processes everywhere must first introduce new and more efficient technology to reduce pressure on natural resources,” remarked Dr. Ramos. In order to preserve the environment and natural resources, she urged individuals, businesses and economies to “evaluate the impact of environmental and trade policies not only on the economy, but on the social and environmental as well.”

Mr. Luciano Montenegro de Menzes, Director at the World Trade Center Brazil, noted that open economies increase productivity by opening trade barriers. Since small and medium-sized businesses account for about 90% of jobs in developing countries, they need to be financed to boost their productivity. Relatedly, Mr. Menzes recognized the increasing ubiquity of the digital economy and urged action to enhance the digital economy around the world, especially in developing countries, which would significantly increase the world’s GDP and create jobs.

During the Q&A segment, participants raised questions and discussed with panelists various topics including the impact of trade on vulnerable groups, bridging the digital divide in the developing world, building new trust-based relationships and the exchange of curricula and programs between institutions of higher education to better adapt themselves to more practical scenarios so they can be well positioned to assist in the work of helping economies adapt better to trade reform work.

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UN75 Conversation Rethinking Trade

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, and as part of its 75th anniversary initiative (UN75), United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) is hosting the "75 for UN75: 75 Minutes of Conversation" series of online dialogues with academics, educators, researchers and students around the world, to discuss their priorities for the future, obstacles to achieving them, and the role of global cooperation in managing global issues. On 20 August 2020 UNAI hosted a webinar on the theme “Rethinking Trade” as part of this series.