Abu Dhabi: Illicit trade is growing and the response through multilateral trade institutions such as World Trade Organisation will help in combating the problem, a senior official from Dubai government said.

“Illicit trade is a global issue and its breadth and scale are growing,” said Raed Safadi, chief economic adviser, office of the director-general, Government of Dubai while speaking at the The Economist Events’ Global Illicit Trade Summit in Abu Dhabi.

“Illicit networks exploit the technological, financial and communication innovations of globalisation. The international response through multilateral trade institutions such as the World Trade Organisation will help combat illicit trade.”

He also said there should be a holistic approach to deal with the issue.

“The focus should not be on a few categories, but on all categories of illicit trade. Then a serious conversation needs to start with the WTO.”

The event held at Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi brought together delegates and prominent experts from the government, law enforcement agencies and private sector to address the root causes of illicit trade and ways to combat it.

Michael Morantz, policy analyst, illicit and counterfeit trade, from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), highlighted that free trade zones (FTZ) represent a significant economic opportunity but also pose heightened risks from illicit trade.

A recent OECD report on the ‘Trade in Counterfeit Goods and Free Trade Zones’ for example, finds that the presence of an additional FTZ on a given territory is associated with a 5.9 per cent increase in the value of trade in counterfeit goods from the host economy.

“From this data that the OECD has produced on FTZs, it is clear we need more accountability and better transparency for Free Trade Zones. The OECD is working on developing guidance on FTZs with its member countries and partners through the Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade, which it hopes can help strengthen resilience of zones.”