Digitalising global trade will unlock a new era of growth, says UAE minister

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi confirmed plans for a tech trade incubator to support new projects and start-ups

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Bloomberg.
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The use of advanced technologies, from artificial intelligence to robotics, has the potential to transform global trade and unlock a new era of growth, according to the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Trade.

Technology including machine learning, automation and the Internet of Things can revolutionise global trade by boosting supply-chain resilience, increasing operational efficiencies and allowing new players to enter the market, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi said during a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“The UAE believes that digital transformation is the best tool to navigate the challenges confronting global supply chains, from access to operational efficiency,” he said on Thursday.

“We as governments have to be bold and proactive in building the infrastructure, both physical and legal, that technology needs to truly transform trade.”

The press conference on Thursday marks a year from the launch of TradeTech Global, a joint initiative by the UAE and WEF to boost the digitisation of international supply chains, enhance customs procedures, improve developing countries’ access to the global trading system and spur trade growth.

A report released on Thursday by the UAE Ministry of Economy and the World Economic Forum, titled TradeTech: Catalysing Innovation, called for more collaboration among trade stakeholders to unlock the full potential of these technologies, which could lead to “trillions of dollars” in additional revenue.

Leveraging advanced technologies can help “streamline trade processes and foster a more efficient, inclusive, sustainable and equitable trading ecosystem”, the report said.

Entrepreneurs, investors, regulators and industry leaders must work together – sharing costs, hedging risks and directing substantial investments – to facilitate technological transformation, it said.

“The complex webs of interactions involved in global trade complicate efforts to optimise the system’s operation. When supply chain participants try to maximise only their own self-interest, the outcome is frequently suboptimal and can lead to significant inefficiencies and missed collective goals,” the report said.

Advanced technologies can be used in four main areas: logistics, trade finance, carbon reduction, and trade compliance, the report showed.

Trade initiatives

The UAE minister confirmed plans for an incubator that will provide support for new projects and start-ups in the trade tech sector, according to a statement.

A new regulatory sandbox, specifically created to co-design, implement, pilot and promote a set of cutting-edge regulatory policies for trade tech, was also announced at the 2024 Davos meeting this week.

The Trade Tech Global initiative will also include the Trade Tech Alliance, which will bring leaders, chief executives and experts to share best practices and identify ways for future collaboration. The TradeTech Forum will be held in the UAE in parallel with the World Trade Organisation’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) that Abu Dhabi will host next month.

“We continue to make important strides forward and, as chair of MC13, I look forward to furthering the integration of trade tech tools and eliminating the roadblocks to their implementation,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

Updated: January 19, 2024, 11:31 AM