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John W.H. Denton, Secretary-General, International Chamber of Commerce, Paris at the 12th World Chambers Congress in Dubai. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Global trade needs a new rule book – and it needs it at the earliest, this is according to John Denton, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce.

This is “one of the challenges we have at the moment,” said Denton in Dubai. As one of the key figures in the ICC, which oversees the smooth flow of businesses across borders, his voice carries clout.

But unlike in the past, the challenges do not relate to the movement of goods. “We support the movement of data across borders as well - what we see is in the absence of a global agreement on this (and) we are actually seeing some closing up of some of those borders.” He said, on the opening day of the 12th World Chambers of Congress summit.

Denton reckons the world isn’t focusing enough on drafting rules to enable the digital world to operate across borders and enable data to flow. He stressed ICC’s mandate to ensure an open global trading environment incorporates good services and data. “And that’s what we’ll be pushing for,” he said.

Before the World Trade Organisation came into force, no serious consideration had been given to the way in which the rules would operate in a digital economy. That was one of the main reasons why the internet did not go into the public domain until after the WTO came into play. “To give life to proper global regulatory trade rules for the 21st century, the rules of the game need to be updated to include the digital economy,” Denton said.

Linking trade and climate

“[We] are stressing on a direct linkage between the global trading world, and a world which is devoted to ensuring that climate action is prosecuted,” said the Secretary-General. “We see the need for the linking up of trade and climate debates. We think the trading environment should also be supportive of great action or green.

“Ensuring supply chain functionality will be a key issue for us, and preparedness for the next crisis. And they’ll always be another crisis, you can be assured of that.”

We are the world in action, and when we bring them all together and create an opportunity.

- John W.H. Denton AO, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)

Denton was all in support of the inclusive framework reached by the OECD countries on global tax arrangements. He said, “Taking out the kind of disequilibrium the inefficiencies of global tax and the way in which different countries apply will actually be a huge benefit.”

The World Chambers of Congress aims to explore the challenges and opportunities faced by businesses due to the pandemic. “[The Congress highlights] the most important theme - disruptions, resilience and digital transformation,” said Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “We want this event to support Chamber of Commerce in this difficult time, to be able to cope up and support their members.”

UAE to surpass UK in ecommerce
The UAE is expected to surpass the UK in e-commerce penetration as more businesses take steps to expand their online presence, Ziad Chehade, Head of Business Marketing MENA for Google said.

Highlighting the issue of consumers being online but many businesses still not finding a place, Chehade said Google’s partnership with Dubai Chamber has helped more than 100,000 businesses in the UAE go online.

The three-day event is organised by the Dubai Chamber, the International Chamber of Commerce and its World Chambers Federation. More than 1,000 participants from over 100 countries registered.

“The level of agility and innovation that’s been displayed [by the chambers] has been remarkable, and that is the essence of ‘Chambers 4.0’ - capturing the ability to change to ensure that we are purpose-built for the 21st-century economy,” said Denton.

Dubai won the bid to host the Congress in 2018, based on a proposal submitted by Dubai Chamber.

All for innovation
The Dubai Chamber has introduced the Chamber Model Innovation (CMI) that can be deployed by such groupings anywhere.

The framework provides a reference for chambers of commerce to not only deal with digital disruption but also to be more agile in catering to member needs. It was developed by a global task force established by the World Chambers Federation.