Trade policy is going through a major overhaul.
On the policy side, the issues at hand are changing from dismantling protectionist measures to dealing with issues that are precautionary in their character. Traditionally, these issues have been about lowering tariffs, but focus is now shifting to more intricate and difficult non-tariff barriers, such as regulatory issues, which are defined as the "new" or 21st century trade agreements.
Meanwhile, digitalization is enabling a dematerializing and democratization of trade, causing a major disruption to global trade as we're used to seeing it. While trade was previously reserved for large multinational corporations, now anyone with a smartphone, tablet or laptop is taking part in internet-driven trade. Actually, at this point in time, more than half of the world's traded services are delivered digitally and data flows contribute more to GDP than trade in goods. Just 15 years ago these were practically nonexistent.
What We Can Do
Both new trade and new trade policy measures render traditional thinking obsolete. It forces us to think differently about how it should be done, who the major players are, who holds the useful information and how it should be implemented. For new trade and policy to work together, negotiators need to have input from the full range of stakeholders. At the same time, stakeholders need to start engaging in the trade policy process. Small businesses, startups, civil society groups, the internet technical community, and everyday users all have a stake.
Now is the time to shape policy so that it creates winners at every level: private, public, players big and small. Unlocking this abundance might not always be easy, but it's what I do best, although pinning down what I do and how I do it might not fit into a conventional framework.
This new trade order will need a very new and different multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder approach. That's why I'm here, to bridge the gaps between researchers, policy makers, implementers and the private sector. These days it takes someone just like me to help everyone get what they want out of trade -- someone who sees this big picture and can slip between all the working parts to help others see it too. Policy makers need useful research, but researchers can only create it when they properly grasp policy, and finally this policy can't be put into play without considering challenges faced by implementers.