From Romanian merchants travelling on the ancient Silk Road over 1,000 year ago, to merchant fleets in the Dutch harbour more than 400 years ago, then ocean-bound freight of multi-national companies in the past 100 years, until shopping carts of moms looking for imported goods today. International trades has gone through unprecedented revolution, just as the trading environment is changing the rules for trading have also been evolving.
In Roman times, what slave owners say, goes; Emperors and Kings set the rules during The Age of Discovery; Since the Industrial Revolution, developed countries and multi-national companies have been masters of power. In the Internet age where everyone is a participant, the rules for international trade need to be rewritten.
At this juncture of the development of globalisation, the participants of international trade have moved from mainly large enterprises to small and micro businesses, while individual e-commerce traders arrive on the scene.The pattern of trade has evolved from “large volume, low frequency, standardise” to “fragmented, high-frequency, and personalised”. But the key players remain to be large enterprises and multinational corporations which make up 20% of the total number of businesses in the world. The voices of small and medium-sized businesses continued to be unheard. The hurdles that they face include customs clearance, hefty taxes, unaffordable logistics, and information barriers. As a key pillar of job creation, small- and medium-sized businesses should have been able to reap their fair share of rewards in a globalised economy.
eWTP, abbreviation of “Electronic World Trade Platform”, or “Global e-Commerce Platform”, is a market-driven, multilateral platform based on international collaboration. It aims to promote a new set of international trade rules, to help developing countries and underdeveloped nations worldwide, small and medium-sized enterprises and young people to get involved in the global economy with more ease.
In simple words, eWTP aims to promote dialogues on new trades between the public and private sectors, enhance infrastructure for cross-border e-commerce, help small and medium-sized businesses overcome challenges in transactions, customs clearance, logistics and financing. It also hopes to promote best-in-class practices such as the Cross-border E-commerce Pilot Zone.
Through these changes, we envision a future in which cross-border trade will be easier, customs clearance will be done in 24 hours, cross-border trade will be more inclusive, tax-exemption for transactions below certain sales amount.
If you are a start-up entrepreneur, a mobile phone will be all that is required for you to trade globally. If you are a consumer, you will be able to buy goods from across the world with a few tabs on your phone.
You can trade raisins from China’s Xinjiang Province, lobsters from Canada, intricate woodworks from Kenya, you name it. The slogan of “Buy globally and sell globally” is no longer a dream, and our vision of “making it easy to do business everywhere” can be realised.
At the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, September 2016, Jack Ma’s eWTP proposal was officially included in the G20 Leaders Communique, and was welcomed by major economies in the world. The eWTP initiative has also gained support from the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the current multilateral-trading entity.
General Director of WTO Roberto Azevedo said, WTO and eWTP are highly consistent and complementary to each other, both should work together to serve small and medium-sized businesses, to help make global trade more open and inclusive.
The WTO has made 60,000 enterprises globalised, contributing greatly to the global economy. In the future, eWTP aims to develop an infrastructure for global commerce of the Internet Age, connecting more “small and beautiful” businesses together. This would be another unprecedented opportunity to drive the global economy.