We recently spoke to Hanne Melin, Director of Global Public Policy at Ebay to hear more about trade opportunities for small firms as well as the role of online commerce in Global Trade*. 

What do you think could be the most significant change in global trade in the next 10 years?

One of the most significant changes we will see relates to the actors participating in trade. The traditional large export companies are gradually being joined by micro and small companies trading directly with consumers worldwide. The very nature of global trade is changing: from a few to a few, to many to many.

What do you see as your biggest challenges in the year ahead?

The biggest challenges are twofold: ensuring that the world's micro and small firms become aware of the opportunities that lie in global trade and ensuring they have access to the "building blocks" that allow them to leverage it: internet and connectivity; global online platform based services; delivery services connected at package level; and public policy supportive of small business to consumer global commerce.

What is your view on recent developments in trade governance?

I am pleased to see that online commerce is now discussed as part of world trade and that there is focus on small business participation. Online commerce should be viewed as an enabler of more inclusive trade and governance focused on how to facilitate trade participation by technology-enabled micro and small businesses. 

Which regulatory developments are you currently watching most closely?

There is huge opportunity in modernizing postal services on a global level and rethinking customs processes in light of the very different trade patterns emerging: many, very small and technology-enabled enterprises with little experience and resources engage in direct commerce with customers in a large number of different markets globally, sending packages without the regularity and predictability of traditional container trade but instead leveraging a digital infrastructure.  

What is the main thing policy makers could do to help digital trade to grow?

We have coined the term the "Global Empowerment Network" to conceptualize the enablers of the new model of global trade. This concept – GEN – also offers a framework for policymakers when considering what they should do promote a more inclusive form of global trade: (1) connectivity to the global internet at low cost and without gatekeepers, (2) access to global platform based marketing, marketplace and payment services, (3) efficient, modern and connected at package-level logistics and delivery services, and (4) legal, regulatory and public policy framework supporting direct SME to consumer global commerce. 

*Please note that the views expressed above are of the speaker and not of Chatham House.