The Public Forum, the yearly public debate organized by the WTO and open to all representatives of the main categories interested in international trade development, focused this year on how trade and the trading system can adapt to recent changes in technology, production methods, employment, demand patterns, demographics and climate change.
The Session goals have been to show how new digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (“AI”), Block-chain, 3D-printing and Internet of Things (“IoT”) are disruptively modifying traditional supply chains, switching commerce’s standpoint and interests from products to services; whether and how this technological development can be governed and regulated so as to make it fit for a sustainable global trade; and which role the IPRs system may play in this respect.
The Working Session involved four distinguished guest speakers:
• Dr Peter Green, Deputy Laboratory Director & Chief Research Officer @ the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory;
• Dr Emmanuelle Ganne, Senior Analyst @ WTO;
• Dr Guido Noto La Diega, Senior Lecturer @ Northumbria University; and
• Dr Daniel Gervais, Professor of Law @ Vanderbilt University.
Luca Rinaldi, Vice-Chair of AIPPI Standing Committee on TRIPs, moderated the session, stressing how new digital technologies are disruptively changing the perspective in the Global Supply and Value Chain, leading the way to a process of “servicification” of the GVC, decentralization of the current business models and “mass-platformisation” of a range of sectors. The “anything as a service” model allows businesses to scale up or down to fit a changing demand, but it also represents a threat for them, requiring to re-check where the value currently lies and where it may lie in the future, and to re-think the approach to suppliers, customers and business models. Rinaldi also pointed out how legislations shall take such technological developments and need for flexibility they entail into account, in order not to leave anyone behind.
Dr Green introduced then the audience to the world of 3D-printing and additive manufacturing, giving his practical insights on its current and future applications and focusing in particular on the challenges faced and the strategies undertaken by the US Renewable Energy Laboratory to apply it in the field of renewable energy production and more in general in the climate change-related fields.
The floor then switched to Dr Ganne, who presented the main findings of her report on block-chain, describing how such technology has the potential to transform business models and international trade thanks to its features of decentralization, trust and immutability; but at the same time pointing out how this is not a panacea, and what still needs to be done in terms of regulatory harmonization efforts in order for block-chain to deploy all its potential.
Dr La Diega gave his legal views on AI, IoT and their role in the sustainability agenda. In particular, La Diega concluded his interesting speech finding that these technologies can play an important role in achieving sustainable development goals as long as they are regulated by law and IP, which is not always the case at the moment: by result, AI and IoT appear at present to govern IP, instead of the contrary.
Dr Gervais closed the Session with his remarkable views on new digital technologies and the challenges they bring, going from the troubles in finding the applicable law and jurisdiction face to the decentralized nature of such technologies, to the fact that current legal solutions are thought for works created by human beings and not by robots.
Profitable debates then continued one-to-one during the cocktail reception that AIPPI hosted at the end of the Session.
This year’s Working Session has been the last of 3 successful presences of our TRIPs Standing Committee at the prestigious seat of debate of the World Trade Organization (last ones in 2015 and 2017).
Audio of the Working Session available at this link: https://www.wto.org/english/forums_e/public_forum19_e/pf19_programme_e.htm.