Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan has said that e-commerce in the country is expected to reach $1 billion by 2020. While inaugurating a seminar on "E-commerce for Development" in Geneva, he said, "Our legislature is working hard to update the rules and regulations governing digital trade." The seminar was organised by the government of Pakistan and was attended by a large number of World Trade Organisation (WTO) members and ambassadors.
All heads of agencies appreciated the initiative taken by Pakistan. It was coordinated by Dr Tauqir Shah, Pakistan's ambassador to WTO. The group consists of Costa Rica, Nigeria, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Argentina and Uruguay. Country experience from Sri Lanka, Argentina, Nigeria, Pakistan and ASEAN were presented and debated. Representatives of the World Bank, WTO, trade for all, EBay, Alibaba and Mercado Libre gave presentations on this occasion.
Speaking on the occasion, the minister said that commerce was an inescapable fact of life, adding that the digital economy has emerged as an unstoppable giant that was growing at 10 percent a year, three times greater than the rate of overall global economic growth. “Internet revolution contributes 8 percent of global GDP, the development of mobile broad band holds the promises to bring billions more on line, thus narrowing the digital, economic, physical and educational divide,” he added.
He said internet related consumption and expenditure has already surpassed the size of the global agriculture and energy sectors. But only a small proportion of this is happening in LDCs and developing countries. He said, “It was this reality which motivated our group of like-minded countries to launch, Friends of Commerce for Development.”
He said the seminar was first major initiative of Friends of E-commerce for Development. He said the event has only been possible through exemplary support of OWTO, UNCTAD, ITC, World Bank and all members of the group namely Costa Rica, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Kenya.
Ecommerce is multidimensional and multi-agency and it requires very close private-public partnership, and inter agency coordination", he remarked. He said that the prime objective of this seminar was to debate the opportunities and challenges offered by e-commerce for LDCs, Land Locked Countries and Small Island economies in particular, and Developing countries in general.
He said that considering the complexities of e-commerce, "we need more engaged and structured discussions in form of seminars and workshops, so that members particularly developing and LDCs get better understanding of challenges and opportunities associated with e-commerce and identify areas of work catering for their interests.
He said, "We, the Friends of Ecommerce for Development, believe that e-commerce provides an opportunity for developing country and LDC enterprises to overcome some of the logistical and geographic challenges they face in terms of access to markets.” A Digital trade allows many small enterprises to participate in the global market, he added.
The minister said the vital link between trade and development was enshrined in the WTO agreements; they provide special provisions for developing countries, which comprise of almost 75 percent of WTO membership. He added that the WTO has provided more and more developing countries with a seat at the table - where their voice is heard just as loud as any other, and they play a key role in managing the system, shaping its agenda, and negotiating its agreements.
"Ultimate aims of trade policy and trade rules must be poverty reduction, growth, welfare and development that work for all members of the global economy", he remarked. He said that the internet, more than anything else, will define the 21st century business environment.
He said that Pakistan was acutely aware of the high growth of e-commerce and its potential to address development deficit. During last two years, after auction of 3G/4G spectrum, the consumers using broad band on mobile have increased from 3 to 37 million. "Our broadband penetration rate is doubling every single year since 2013. The Global Findex report shows Pakistan as the leader in mobile banking transactions in South Asia, having 133 million mobile phone subscribers and 11 percent of them use mobile phones to carry out financial transactions,” he added. The minister said e-commerce in the country is expected to reach $1 billion by 2020. He said that promoting fair competition between online and offline services were critical for developing countries. The gains from the digital revolution have not been shared widely, he added.
He said there were huge challenges for developing and transition economies to reap gains from e-commerce. These challenges included poor infrastructure, inadequate logistics, low adoption rates of information and communications technology, outdated legal and regulatory frameworks, lack of payment solutions and financing. "The UNCTAD index clearly shows that the capacity and ability to engage successfully in e-commerce varies significantly among countries," he remarked.