Standardising digital trade and ensuring that technology-led development does not lead to job losses, will be the key agenda for Sunil Bharti Mittal, the newly elected chairman of the Paris headquartered International Chamber of Commerce.
Mittal, who took over the office recently, the third Indian to do hold the position in the nearly 100 year history of the organisation, told a select group of visiting Indian journalists, that he will push trade – open trading, no isolationism and no closed trading – because it is through more open trading that the governments across nations will be able to create more jobs and provide a minimum level of sustenance to the marginalised.
He said that it is unfortunate that at a time when India is opening up, the world is closing up. To prevent the latter will be a key agenda of his which will be advocated through the ICC’s credo of “Trade Matters”.
Being at the helm of one of the world’s largest telecom company, Mittal said he’s suitably qualified to push digital trade, an area where ICC has not done enough but there’s scope to do a lot. He said that e-commerce, which is an emerging area which is changing the ways business is being done, works in a different way and therefore it needs to be defined and standardised and made part of WTO.
“Trade terms, tax regime need to be firmed up for digital trade. Also movement of people who are required to build software and other skills for such form of trading,” Mittal said. By standardisation of digital trade, Mittal means that aspects like risk transfer, warranties, delivery etc. He said that the ICC will work very closely with the OECD and G-20 on tax related aspects of digital trade while working with the WTO with regard to trade related aspects.
“I am in a very good spot today with our Prime Minister promoting trade. If India can do it, the world can do it. My job has become easier due to our PM,” Mittal said, with regard to the agenda which he wants to accomplish during his two year tenure as the chairman of the ICC. “I am very pleased that India is on the front foot on all the issues which are on the agenda of ICC. The opening up of India to the world would not have happened at a more opportune time,” he added.
Dwelling on technology-related development, which he termed at “Ubersiation of businesses”, Mittal said that it is creating pressure for traditional businesses as they are finding it difficult to adapt themselves in the new environment. As a result, traditional jobs are at risk so the task before him is to find a replacement for them. “I will promote technology but then we need to see that it is rightly prioritised. Instead of first replacing
labour with automation, we need to use automation for processes. In this way jobs will also not be lost and technology can better the processes.
“Businesses need to drive growth and employment. In the last 4-5 years businesses have lost credibility and we need to work towards restoring it,” he said, adding that there needs to be a fight against jobless growth with the march of technology.
Cautioning businesses, Mittal said that “before governments started regulating us we need to sit together and offer solutions. I don’t have an answer but want a debate on this. We will have a roundtable on this in August in the Silicon Valley where we will invite all the technological experts to brainstorm on the issue,” he said, adding that after this conference is over the ICC will bring out a paper on the subject, how to
harmonise technological growth and jobs.
Criticising protectionism, he said that everyone should be worried about it. “Countries that have enjoyed decades of growth are today turning protectionist. This needs to be fought. We will talk to everybody to ensure that this does not happen. We want discussion on open trade, we will ask for a discussion on it in the next G-20 summit,” Mittal said.
Commenting on the Brexit, he said that the opposition was not to open trade but to immigration, which was felt was happening more than the quota.
Travel for the story was sponsored by ICC