CBI’s recent External Experts Conference at the end of January certainly lived up to its theme of “Inspiration for Development – Trade 2.0”. CBI Managing Director Hans Klunder set the scene with an emotive film that proved enthusiasm and talent can compensate for a lack of opportunity. He then passed the baton to Jeroen Roodenburg, Ambassador Private Sector and International Cooperation, and Director of Sustainable Economic Development at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who spoke about the Dutch agenda on trade and development and CBI’s integral role in it.
The first of the day’s three keynote speakers, Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC) marvelled at the amazing opportunities offered by technology. She spoke of trade facilitation measures, lamenting the fact that cumbersome border-crossing procedures generate 10 per cent of world trade costs. According to González two thirds of respondents to a 2013 ITC survey felt the biggest obstacles to trading were complex regulations and certification and safety requirements. She stopped short of wanting to scrap them but pleaded for a concerted effort to help SMEs in their compliance.
Hanne Melin, Policy Strategy Counsel EMEA at eBay, said technology is a global business enabler. in traditional markets only 10 to 20 per cent of firms export their products, but in the online business it’s 96 per cent. eBay has identified a parallel network called the Global Empowerment Network. It is supported by low-cost Internet connectivity, digital services, the efficient movement of products, and procedures that allow small firms and consumers to participate in global trade. “Online trading can significantly reduce the cost of entering new markets, and stimulate new buyer-seller relationships and empower individuals and entrepreneurs anywhere and everywhere,” she said.
Volkert Engelsman, CEO of Eosta, argued that organic growth is sustainable growth. “Our definition of profit must be expanded from a system that only helps a small economic elite to one that does not generate profit at someone else’s expense, or pass on the cost to taxpayers and future generations,” he urged. In addition to price and brand allegiance, aspects such as health, wellbeing and the environment are also important, which explains the increasing popularity of Fair trade, organic and certified products. Dismissing accusations of being too idealistic or optimistic, Engelsman reasoned that change never comes from a following majority but from a trendsetting minority.
After the speeches, consultants in the audience quizzed the speakers on their views on a range of topics. These varied from the role played by the value of a product when it comes to online trading, to the real costs – taking into account sustainability aspects – of producing a pair of sneakers being closer to €500 than the €100 on the price tag. The general consensus was that for many of the issues currently facing SMEs most can be tackled and solved with an incremental approach; as Engelsman put it: “There is no silver bullet; but every bit helps.”> Read the full article