Perspektiven auf „Hamburg 2040“: Nicolás Uribe Rueda

What is the role of chambers of commerce in shaping a sustainable, inclusive and prosperous future? Nicolás Uribe Rueda, Chairman of the World Chambers Federation, shows the importance of economic optimism and cooperation between all actors in society.
Foto: Weltkammervereinigung
Nicolás Uribe Rueda, Chairman, World Chambers Federation

Von Nicolás Uribe Rueda, 17. Mai 2023

The history books show that the world’s most devastating economic crises have been followed by much pessimism. Understandably, the effects brought on by the 1929 Great Depression or the 07-08 Financial Crisis, to bring up some examples, that included mass unemployment and a drop in income, painted a grim future for many. Currently, the world is going through a similar situation. Lingering effects of the pandemic, predominately on supply chains, together with widespread inflation, geopolitical tensions with the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a standout and talks about deglobalization and a zero-sum logic era fostered primarily by ongoing tensions between the world’s two largest economies paint a bleak future. Yet, one of the greatest lessons we’ve learned from such crises is that this pessimism is often misplaced, and history also reminds us that things, more often than not, end up turning better than expected. According to the World Economic Forum, in 2022, global trade reached a recordbreaking US$ 32 trillion. This, coupled with technological breakthroughs and broader adoption of sustainable and more inclusive trade practices, may point to much brighter prospects for globalization and trade in the face of significant changes. Undoubtedly, the pandemic hasted a surge of e-commerce worldwide. The latter, stacked with a quick bounce back of consumer spending after the first half of 2020, created significant global challenges for supply chains that quickly found themselves overwhelmed. As such, the need to create more resilient supply chains through nearshoring processes and, more importantly, technological innovations became immediately evident. Since 2020, giant technological leaps in fields such as AI have provided the opportunity to imagine a much more resilient and efficient international trade that prompts profound transformations throughout the logistic chain. Self-driving vehicles, drones, unmanned cranes, warehouse automation, and enriched data quality are just some examples of where logistics will be heading in the not-too-distant future to push trade forward more efficiently. And achieving greater resilience and efficiency on supply chains gains even greater importance if we consider their role, together with pushing for even more open markets, in achieving climate goals led by net-zero industry and energy productive transformations. In this regard, the OECD has pointed toward the ways through which trade liberalization can create stronger incentives for businesses worldwide to adopt stricter environmental standards. As governments from key importers introduce new policies to strengthen environmental requirements, such as Europe’s Green Deal, which millions of companies will need to comply with, trade will have an extraordinary potential to foster cleaner production processes worldwide and, thus, a greener global economy. Yet, these requirements also invite us to pay special attention to a matter of great importance in international trade: inclusiveness. The World Bank estimates that SMEs represent nearly 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide, yet their contributions are scarcely shown in global trade. The latter has much to do with the high costs of engaging in foreign markets, which are primarily associated with meeting regulatory requirements. The good news is that the rise of global value chains and ever-greater participation of digital tools in trade already offers many opportunities for SMEs to engage in the global scene, for example, through services. Striking the perfect balance between the former and the latter continues to be vital in securing a successful, sustainable, and inclusive trade. But to achieve the preceding, strengthening the rules-based multilateral global trade system that the World Trade Organization (WTO) embodies will be critical, as it remains the best approach to addressing our most pressing challenges. In these efforts, the system will need to adapt to an ever-changing global economy that is characterized by complex interdependence and a much more diverse multi-polar world order while delivering on high-impact reforms, where the package agreed upon at the 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO last year provides a promising first step. With all of this in mind, what role do chambers of commerce have in shaping the future of global trade? For starters, we are the true voice of MSMEs and the real economy. As such, we will play an active role in making sure the benefits of global trade reach our smallest businesses everywhere by putting our vast network in service of providing the right business opportunities, financing and training them to meet regulatory requirements. Having the knowledge and resources to link our entrepreneurs with the brightest minds in the field, we’ll also play a key role in serving information and good practices for SMEs to transition to more inclusive, sustainable, and technology-driven business models. “We are suffering from a bad attack of economic pessimism,” once pronounced John Maynard Keynes, after going on about the need to build a better future only by working together. Bringing his words into today’s post pandemic and pessimistic global context might ring a bell. Yet, the lessons taught by history in dire times like these, together with technological advances, a common view of the need to move forward to a more sustainable and inclusive global economy through multilateralism, where organizations like chambers of commerce will play an important role, evidence that pessimism is not only unwarranted but also misplaced. As such, I urge all actors in society to work together through pragmatism; collaboration will spark an integrated, sustainable, and fair economic order that will benefit all.

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