• Opportunities and Challenges of Digital Trade Conference 2022
    2022-12-22 hit 2114

    KITA hosts “Opportunities and Challenges of Digital Trade Conference 2022”

    More digital trade agreements expected to be signed in the future

    Government assures digital trade agreements will reflect the interest of the trading sector

    Experts and relevant businesspeople express concern over regulations than can disproportionately affect domestic companies


    Korea is gearing up its efforts with multiple nations and organizations to settle digital trade agreements. The country has already signed the Korea - Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (DPA) and Korea has plans to engage in discussions to improve provisions governing matters on digital trade that are included in the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), Korea - EU FTA and Korea - Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) FTA.

    Players involved in the digital trade sector are paying much attention as to how much digital trade agreements, including agreements described above, will reflect issues raised by the Korean digital industry sector. As being aware of the importance of this topic, “Opportunities and Challenges of Digital Trade Conference 2022” was organized by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) on December 12, which was held at COEX in Samseong-dong. Experts from international economic organizations, universities from home and abroad, research institutions, digital trade experts affiliated with law firms and other relevant businesspeople gathered to listen to lectures and share opinions during discussions.

    KITA announced the conference was organized for the following purposes - a) looking into digital transformation resulting in a massive shift in the global trading environment, b) analyzing the direction of discussions regarding international trade norms, c) engaging in discussions on the path Korea needs to take in regards to digital trade and d) discovering potential issues that may require action in the future. In his welcome remarks, Christopher Koo, the Chairman of KITA stressed, “Data is a key element that will define the future of the digital industry” and added, “Korea has signed its first digital trade agreement - the Korea - Singapore DPA - to keep up with the irreversible tide of digital transformation.”

    Chairman Koo also said, “Next year will see full-fledged negotiations on gaining membership in DEPA - the first multilateral agreement of its kind and multiple talks within the IPEF that places digital trade as a mainstream agenda” and anticipated, “We expect to see more digital trade agreements being signed at a much-accelerated pace.”

    Chairman Koo pointed out, “Although Korean companies are well aware of the importance of embracing the digital age, their preparation is not yet sufficient to face the digital age.” The Chairman said, “KITA hopes Korean companies will gain a better understanding on digital trade by taking today’s conference as an opportunity” and highlighted, “KITA will be committed to embrace the responsibility as a bridge between the government and the private sector that facilitates the interest of Korea’s trading businesses to be reflected in digital trade policies”

    Deok-geun Ahn, the Minister of Trade at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Energy said, “As our companies have enjoyed success through openness and innovation, digital trade is an important agenda that will decide the fate of the competitiveness of our future industries.” The Minister also mentioned, “Our ministry will be committed to implementing more far-reaching digital trade policies to place Korea as a major player in digital trade” and proposed five key policy directions that will guide how digital trade policies will be implemented.

    The first policy direction is to aggressively engage in efforts to ensure Korea’s interest is properly reflected during the process of establishing global norms in digital trade. The second policy direction is to strategically expand digital trade networks. The third policy direction is to exert efforts to improve domestic laws and regulations in conjunction with discussions on the international norms on digital trade. The fourth policy direction is to support SMEs and start-ups to boost their capacity to take advantage of digital trade. The last policy direction is to nurture digital trade experts and set up a platform for cooperation between the government and private sector.

    The Minister of Trade remarked, “With the signing of the Korea - Singapore DPA, we believe an institutional foundation is in place for our companies specializing in the digital industry sector to expand their business operations into the ASEAN market”. He also announced a number of key negotiations will take place that are relevant to digital trade: a) negotiations to gain membership in DEPA, b) negotiations on digital trade with IPEF members, c) talks to modernize e-commerce regulations in the Korea - EU FTA and d) negotiations to improve provisions of FTAs, including those governing digital trade, which were signed with the United Kingdom, Ecuador and GCC member states.

    Gwan-seok Yoon, the Chairman of the Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs, and Startups Committee in the National Assembly highlighted, “As an aggressive move to sign FTAs became the foundation for Korean industries to make inroads into the global market, it is now time that digital trade policies will lead the nation’s growth in the digital economy sector.” He added, “The National Assembly will also join efforts to support our companies to discover new opportunities through digital innovation, and create an environment in the country for these companies to successfully pursue their business by taking advantage of newly discovered opportunities.”

    Anabel Gonzalez, the Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization, who took part in the conference virtually, delivered a keynote speech via video. She mentioned in her speech, “Digital technologies, including the broadband Internet, cloud computing and artificial intelligence, are gamechangers that significantly boosted corporate productivity, which presented us with a wide array of opportunities.” She also mentioned, “On the flip side of the coin, we are also met with a challenge as we are facing mounting calls to close the digital divide - a pressing issue in the developing world, protect customers and ensure watertight cybersecurity.” The Deputy Director-General specially said, “As it is imperative to encourage cooperation of all relevant parties to deal with such challenges, I ask experts and enterprises to share their knowledge and experience.”

    After the Deputy Director-General’s virtual keynote speech, presentations were delivered and discussions took place, which focused on a) opportunities and challenges with the arrival of the digital economy and b) the impact of the digital economy on the global economy and possible avenues of cooperation. Joo-hyeong Lee, an Attorney affiliated with Kim & Chang law firm mentioned, “Despite the fact that the world is connected as one big community linked with the Internet, as each nation is introducing different sets of policies aimed at encouraging the development of new technologies that support data platforms, we are seeing more inconsistencies in regulations that govern digital trade.” Attorney Lee anticipated, “Digital trade negotiations will serve as indispensable tools in introducing a consistent governance in the global digital trade market.”

    Deborah Elms, the Head of the Asian Trade Centre in Singapore, “Digital trade agreements are important tools that support the growth and progress of the digital economy” and added, “In order to support the expansion of trade involving digitalized products and services, negotiations on digital trade agreements should take place on top of existing norms governing the trade of goods and services.”

    Meanwhile, officials engaged in the digital trade sector unanimously insisted on the need to seek improvements to domestic regulations to add vitality to digital business activities. Young-ki Cho, the Secretary-General of the Korea Internet Corporations Association advised, “Domestic regulations should not act as hurdles that effectively result in Korean companies from being exposed to discriminatory treatments compared to global companies, which will end up in depriving our companies of a level-playing field” and stressed,” Regulations should be improved in a direction focused on encouraging Korean companies to expand their business operation overseas.”

    Ji-won Oh, the Director of the Government Affairs & Public Policy Team at Google Korea mentioned, “Digital trade agreement is an important tool that can unlock the potential of the digital sector to create a wide array of opportunities” and added, “Digital trade agreements are serving as useful tools in minimizing the risk of trade disputes and connecting digital economies of multiple nations, thus ensuring the consistency of the digital economy system as a whole and boosting efforts to introduce a common standard.” Jong-il Kim, the Senior Director at the Office of Service Policy at Coupang said, “Digital companies have made an immense contribution in scaling up customers’ well-being in many nations” and stressed, “Attempts to introduce new regulations should be made in a cautious manner as companies importing or exporting digital goods and services can be negatively affected.”

    [This news is provided by Korea Trade News]

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