The promise of TradeTech – the set of technologies that enables global trade to become more efficient, inclusive and sustainable – is multifaceted, from trade facilitation to efficiency gains and reduced costs, to greater transparency and resilience of supply chains. Of particular interest for this publication is the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) and the internet of things (IoT) to shape the global trade ecosystem.

Although the technological innovation exists, the major challenge to the global adoption of TradeTech will be building international policy coordination. Here, trade agreements can play a key role. Trade agreements are generally technology neutral, and many existing trade rules apply to digital trade. Yet, developing explicit rules will be needed to provide further legal certainty as to how they apply in the digital field.

Trade rules can:

• prevent a fragmented technological environment by encouraging international regulatory cooperation and by promoting regulatory harmonization and coherence;
• prevent governments from introducing discriminatory measures favouring local providers or measures that are unnecessarily trade restrictive;
• ensure transparency of regulatory requirements and procedures;
• enhance market access;
• facilitate foreign direct investment, such as investments in information and communications technology (ICT) to fortify TradeTech adoption.

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