Trade Facilitation 2.0: Enabling Trade in the Digital Age

Organised by
20 April 2018
Palais des Nations, Geneva

E-commerce offers major opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries but significant challenges remain, particularly in the areas of infrastructure and regulatory practices. This session will provide a multidimensional and integrated approach to trade facilitation, with a focus on the digital component.

One year on from its entry into force, the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has allowed for sustained momentum on the trade liberalisation agenda and provided new oxygen in a stifled negotiating environment. The experience of the TFA makes a cogent economic case for the negotiation of trade-enabling rules where the agreement’s full implementation could reduce worldwide trade costs by an average of 14.3 percent, with the largest gains accruing to SMEs in developing and least developed countries.

However significant, the TFA extends only to the physical dimension of trade and is maladapted to the features of the new economy. Modern business models and structures of production reveal a new frontier for trade facilitation in this respect, expressed as Trade Facilitation 2.0. Simplified and harmonised procedures in other policy areas, such as investment, services, and e-commerce are the next step in modernising the WTO in order to respond to what the 21st century requires, and reaffirm the relevance and centrality of the multilateral rules-based system.

This session, organised by ICTSD in the framework of UNCTAD E-Commerce Week 2018, will bring together experts, international organisations, industry representatives, and Geneva-based trade diplomats to explore how Trade Facilitation 2.0 could be useful for trade talks and future negotiations, particularly as it relates to e-commerce. The session will open with an introduction to the concept of Trade Facilitation 2.0. The discussion will then be enriched with the business perspective to give a sense of the challenges on the ground, touching on the multidimensional character of trade operations and the need for a more holistic problem-solving approach. Finally, the session will identify the aspects of e-commerce that need attention with respect to trade facilitation that are either currently being considered or should be, and will examine how disciplines might be devised to address some of these areas.

To confirm your participation, please complete the short registration form in the left-hand column by 20 April. In order to attend this session, you must be registered for UNCTAD E-Commerce Week. 

Modern business models and structures of production reveal a new frontier for trade facilitation. Simplified and harmonised procedures in other policy areas, such as investment, services, and e-commerce are the next step in modernising the WTO in order to respond to what the 21st century requires, and reaffirm the relevance and centrality of the multilateral rules-based system.

Provides an examination of the multidimensional character of trade operations and the need for a more holistic problem-solving approach.

Offers an overview of the existing elements in trade agreements, with attention to areas of convergence.

Open Discussion

Ricardo MELÉNDEZ-ORTIZ is founder and Chief Executive since 1996 of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Previously, he co-founded and was General Director of Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano (Quito). He has represented Colombia as a negotiator in several multilateral fora, including as permanent delegate of Colombia in Geneva and as a negotiator in GATT’s Uruguay Round, the Rio’92 UN Conference process, UNCTAD VIII, the Climate Change Convention, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Montreal Protocol. He acted as spokesperson for the G77 in several fora and served as chair of the UN Standing Committees on Commodities and on Trade Preferences. Earlier, he had served as Principal Adviser to the Colombian Minister of Economic Development and as Chief of Administration of the Office of the President of Colombia.

Since 1997, Mr. Meléndez-Ortiz has been the publisher of BRIDGES and its sister publications, and has edited, authored and published a wide range of books, articles and opinion pieces in English, French and Spanish on economic governance, trade, sustainable development and conflict management.

He has served or currently sits on advisory committees and the boards of a number of global policy initiatives, including as Board chairperson of the Meridian Institute (U.S.); World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Biodiversity and the Bio-Economy; World Economic Forum’s Stewardship Board on Trade and Investment; a Convener of the 'E15 Initiative’, an international undertaking involving over 400 experts seeking options for the global trade and investment system; Member of the Board of Intellectual Property Watch (Geneva); the Operating Board of AccountAbility (London); the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Trade and WEF’s Working Group on Trade and Climate Change; The Pardee Center Task Force on Governance for a Green Economy (U of Boston); The Center for Global Development’s Global Trade Preference Working Group (Washington, DC); The Evian’s Group Brains Trust (IMD); the Global Governance Network of Globus et Locus (Milano); the Steering Committees of DfID’s Global Trade and Finance Architecture Initiative and of UN DESA’s Sustainable Development Knowledge Partnership (New York), a Patron of the Earth Focus Foundation (Geneva); in the recent past he served as Chair of the Global Action Network’s Council (Cambridge, MA); and member of the U.N. Secretary General Millennium Project Task Force on Trade; the WTO’s Director General NGO Advisory Group; and the MOFCOM/IISD China Sustainable Development and Global Markets Task Force.

In 2016 he was an advisor to the G20 China Presidency on Trade and Investment, in 2017 co-chair of the T20 Task Force on Trade and Investment during Germany’s G20 Presidency, in 2018 co-chair of T20 Task Force on Trade, Investment and Tax Cooperation during Argentina’s G20 Presidency and in 2018/2019 co-chair of T20 Task Force for Trade, Investment and Globalization during Japan’s G20 Presidency.

Since 2015, he is part of the Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) Global Digital Futures Policy Forum.

Mr. Meléndez-Ortiz, a graduate of Harvard University, has recently co-authored the New Industrial Revolution: Upgrading Trade and Investment Frameworks for Digitalization (21 August 2018) with Axel Berger: this policy brief was produced by the T20 Task Force on Trade, Investment and Tax Cooperation under the G20 Presidency of Argentina in 2018; Renforcer le système international du commerce et de l’investissement au 21ème siècle (1 December 2016) with Richard Samans; The Law and Economics of a Sustainable Energy Trade Agreement (30 August 2016) with Gary Hufbauer, Richard Samans; Envisioning China’s G20 Presidency: Proposals for the global trade and investment regime in the 21st century (19 March 2016); Strengthening the Global Trade and Investment System in the 21st Century, Synthesis Report, under the E15Initiative (22 January 2016) with Richard Samans, Harsha V. Singh, Sean Doherty; Enabling the Energy Transition and Scale-up of Clean Energy Technologies: Options for the Global Trade System, under the E15Initiative (22 January 2016)Envisioning a Sustainable Development Agenda for Trade and Environment (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) with A. Najam and M. Halle, and co-edited Rebuilding Global Trade: Proposals for A Fairer, More Sustainable Future(Global Economic Governance Programme at Oxford U. and ICTSD, 2009) with C. Deere; Agricultural Subsidies In The WTO Green Box: Ensuring Coherence With Sustainable Development Goals (Cambridge University Press, 2009) with C. Bellmann and J. Hepburn; Intellectual Property and Sustainable Development, Agendas in a Changing World(Edward Elgar Publishing, 2009) with P. Roffe; and, WTO Dispute Settlement: The Developing CountryExperience (Cambridge U. Press, forthcoming November 2010) with G. Shaffer. He holds the Colombian nationality and is a resident of Switzerland where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

Felipe is now ICTSD's Senior Advisor, Trade Law and Negotiations, having previously been a Lead Negotiator Trade in Services Agreement – TISA 2012-2017. In this capacity, Mr. Sandoval coordinated Chile´s team on a variety of topics ranging from electronic commerce financial services, and telecommunications, to overall negotiation strategies.

Felipe's additional experience includes: Counsellor. Permanent Mission of Chile to the World Trade Organization (WTO) 2011- 2016.  In this role his portfolio scope covered trade remedies, trade & environment and trade in services. He has served at the WTO as Chairperson to the Committee on Specific Commitments, and the Working Party on GATS Rules.

Senior Legal Advisor. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile. In this capacity, Mr. Sandoval served as a lead negotiator for the Chapter on Cross Border Trade in Services in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), and the Dispute Settlement Section of the Chile- China Bilateral Investment Agreement. Additionally, he has served as a negotiator on the bilateral free trade agreements between Chile and Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Australia, Japan, and the Pacific Four (New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore). 

Head of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Department. Responsible for the coordination of all Chile´s actions under APEC´s diverse subfora, and head of the Task Group behind the preparation of Ministerial level and Leader´s meetings.

 Mr. Sandoval holds a J.D. from the Catholic University of Chile, School of Law and an L.L.M. from the Washington University in St. Louis. Mr. Sandoval speaks Spanish, English and Portuguese.

Aviva Zhang

Trade Facilitation and Market Access Issue Management, Global Government Affairs Dept., Huawei

Maria Ptashkina is a Bridges Associate for ICTSD’s Publications and Editorial Team. Currently a PhD student in Economics at University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain, Maria also holds a Master’s Degree in Specialized Economic Analysis in International Trade, Finance and Development from the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics. 

Maria has experience working as a researcher and trade policy analyst at the Russian Foreign Trade Academy affiliated with the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia. Additionally, Maria was a researcher, and then the head of trade policy department, for the Russian APEC Study Center. Her past responsibilities ranged from preparing research and analytical material for the Ministry, to being part of the Russian delegation in the APEC Forum.


Mr. Zapata was the Chief Negotiator for the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). He is also the Senior Official responsible for WTO, OECD, and the G20. During his career of more than 20 years in the Ministry of Economy, Mr. Zapata has been involved in the design and implementation strategies for the participation of Mexico in multilateral organizations (WTO, APEC, OECD), and has led Mexico´s team in several negotiating processes. Mr. Zapata has had the responsibility of coordinating different inter-agency and private sector consultations to feed into Mexico´s negotiating positions. He was in charge of managing the trade relation with Asian and Middle Eastern countries, and the follow-up of the implementation and negotiation of Free Trade Agreements with that region. Mr. Zapata is currently the Ambassador of Mexico to the World Trade Organization. Mr. Zapata received a bachelor's degree of International Relations from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in 1990. In 1995, he received a master's degree of arts in International Political Economy from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom.

Ms Tan Yee Woan is Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organisation and World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva, since August 2014.

Ms Tan graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science (Honours II Upper), from the National University of Singapore in 1986. In 1996, she obtained a Master in Politics of World Economy (with Distinction) from the University of London, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom.

Ms Tan joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in June 1989 and was Country Officer for Western Europe and Economic Policy. Her first overseas posting was as the First Secretary in the Singapore Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva from April 1992 to May 1995. When she returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after her postgraduate studies, she was appointed to various Deputy Director positions in the Human Resource Directorate from January 1997 to December 1999. Ms Tan served as Deputy Permanent Representative in the Singapore Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York from January 2000 to January 2003. From February 2003 to April 2007, she was Director of the International Organisations Directorate in the Ministry. Ms Tan was Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia from June 2007 to August 2010. She was Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva from December 2010 to July 2014, and was concurrently accredited as the Permanent Representative of Singapore to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Ms Tan was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Bronze) in 1999 and Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 2017.

Ambassador Dr. Tauqir Shah is Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at World Trade Organization since March, 2015.    He was part of Pakistan’s Delegation to the Tenth Ministerial meeting at Nairobi. He is co-coordinator of the Friends of eCommerce for Development Group, launched by a group of developing country members in WTO Geneva, with a view to constructively engage in the digital trade debate in the Multilateral System.                                                                                         

Prior to his appointment as Pakistan Ambassador in Geneva, he worked as Principal Secretary to Chief Minister of Punjab (2008-2014) – the largest province and economic/agriculture hub of Pakistan. In his role as Chief of Staff to provincial chief Minister, he was focal point for GSP-plus, agriculture development, labour and human rights and gender empowerment policies, apart from many other social and economic initiatives. Previously, he worked as Gender Advisor for UNDP Pakistan and ILO Advisor to Government of Pakistan on Women Employment Concerns and bonded labor (2002-2008). In this role, he was instrumental in highlighting the link between market access and labor standards compliances.

 He also worked in Ministry of Economic Affairs and National Security Council of Pakistan.

For two years, he took time off from government and worked with the largest non-governmental organization of Pakistan on rural/agriculture development and community development at grass roots level.

He earned a Master’s in Human Resources Management from the University of Manchester, as Britannia Chevening Scholar. He was awarded the international competitive fellowship by the three top US Universities, International Ford Fellowship for studying Non-Profit Management at Pickering Executive Development Centre, Columbia University New York; he was Watson International Fellow for Sustainable Development and Conflict Resolution at Brown University Rhode Island. In 2002, he was selected to be the Joel Fleishman Civil Society Fellow by Duke University North Carolina, where he researched on laws regulating the civil society. He was awarded the prestigious Conflict Resolution and Negotiation Skills Fellowship for attending International Program on Management of Sustainability in Netherlands in 2003. In all these fellowships, he focused on negotiation skills for sustainable development. He is fellow of sustainable development think tank called LEAD – Pakistan (Leadership for Environment and Development); he has also served on the Board of Government of LEAD – Pakistan. The Open Society Institute New York awarded him the International Policy Fellowship.

Dr. Shah volunteers for number of Non-Profit organizations working for gender empowerment, human rights, rural and community development, and sustainable economic development particularly in the field of agriculture.


Room XXVI, Palais des Nations, 8-14, Av. de la Paix, 1211 Geneva