A True World Expo: The World's Trade Concentrated in One PlaceBy Gino Demeneghi | Tue, 12/21/2021 - 08:44
I have traveled to various parts of the world. I have done business sitting in a cafe and also in a palace. I have seen all kinds of forms and manners, and generally, I prepare myself ahead of time to try and understand and adapt to local customs. In some cultures, such as the Japanese, they are very formal, full of rules and protocols that you must adhere to and be mindful of in great detail. Partaking in business at a global level requires preparation not only of the product or service you offer, nor of the knowledge of the market you want to serve; it also requires knowledge of the local manners to make the other party feel comfortable. This is very important, as it conveys that you took the time to prepare and that you respect their beliefs and traditions.
The need to exchange products and services dates back to the beginning of history and generated what we now know as international trade. We have a vast history of merchants, Bedouins, traffickers, etc, and over the centuries different currencies have been used, including cocoa, silk, and gold. And books and films have been made to document all of the aforementioned. Who has not seen those caravans crossing the desert with camels loaded with merchandise? Or ships loaded with merchandise raided by pirates? What would history be without the Silk Road?
In recent years, the global economy has experienced rapid growth, contributed to, among other factors, by the acceleration of international trade, the result of technological advancements, and a concerted effort to reduce trade barriers. The value of exports reached a historical record of US$19.48 billion (1) in 2018, requiring more than ever an improvement of distribution channels to be competitive. Being effective and efficient is now the challenge for the logistics department of any company that wants to succeed in the world. Who would have thought that a logistics director would be as or more important than the sales director? Yes, the world is changing, and new ways are being woven into the international trade scene to make the handling of goods globally more practical.
However, humanity experienced a reversal in the pace of global trade: a deceleration due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID created an unusual and unexpected scenario, stopping us, limiting us in other ways, and fundamentally slowing down the entire world. Postponements, extensions of deadlines, prohibitions, eliminations and closings became common phrases around the world. In 2020, we experienced the largest contraction in global trade since the World War II; the volume of goods traded fell by 17.7 percent compared to 2019 (2). With the pandemic, tourism also collapsed, dragging down with it the exports of services. Further, the problems with international transport also affected regional trade, and thus, a new era in the challenges of international trade was born.
We arrived in 2021 with high expectations in an uncertain market. According to the World Trade Organization, the volume of global merchandise trading is forecasted to grow by 10.8 percent in 2021, instead of the 8.0 percent forecasted in March. However, trade growth is expected to slow to 4.7 percent in 2022, an increase from the 4.0 percent previously forecasted (1).
The above brings me back to the beginning of this article: we need to revive international trade. Yes, the pandemic generated a great change, but it also created the opportunity to redesign strategies to reinsert ourselves in the global trade panorama. Today, as I write this note from the World Expo in Dubai, there are more than 190 countries around me that are meeting, precisely to create new commercial strategies and forge alliances. The Expo is a birthing ground for international trade. All of this is happening now through the end of March 2022 within the framework of the Expo 2020 Dubai, which was suspended in 2020 and instead opened in October 2021 (keeping the original name of “2020”). Expo 2020 Dubai is more than a tourist attraction or a showcase of new technologies; within each pavilion you feel the essence of the country and can also find the commercial area, or “business center” — a place where opportunities are explored, ideas are generated, and the promotion of each nation’s economy thrives.
In contrast to the past, the way of doing business has become very dynamic; an infinite number of business delegations roam the expo and forums and B2B meetings are held every day in various pavilions. Each and every pavilion has an agenda that is worth knowing; the supply and demand for commerce is huge, and because of this, Expo 2020 is the right place for the renaissance of world trade, particularly when we consider that all of this is happening in one place that houses more than 190 nations. Here, the key is to prioritize and to be focused on one or few key objectives, as trying to capture all opportunities is simply impossible. While it sounds enticing, this practice of “taking on more than you can chew” leads to losing sight of a defined objective. Thus, my advice to you, both within and beyond the Expo, is to pick your target from the pack, focus on it and never losing sight of it.
The World Expo is particularly well-received at a time when the landscape of international trade has changed so drastically; the Expo represents the opportunity to work with all nations under one roof toward mutually-beneficial opportunities. It is also the opportunity to learn about global initiatives that will significantly change mobility, sustainability, and other opportunities, as these three categories are the namesakes and inspiration of the three geographic zones within the Expo.
The World Expo is the largest global event since the pandemic began. It is the best face-to-face opportunity that the world has right now to exchange, well, everything! From science and technology, to creativity, culture, tourism, art, products and services, the World Expo presents an opportunity that can’t be squandered.
At the Expo, we are a universal community speaking one common language (English), in a context of expanding horizons and breaking down borders that prevent the transit of goods and services. Here, the opportunities are huge and it is time to take advantage of this great opportunity. Getting involved in the Expo 2020 business network is easy through each country’s pavilion and various business chambers; even as a tourist or visitor you can consult the economic agenda of each pavilion and get involved in the activities that best fit your interests.
We are discovering a new way of doing international trade; we are learning how to restart global operations, and I believe no one should miss this opportunity offered by the six-month universal expo in such an important and unique part of the world. Dubai has positioned itself strategically as a place where East meets West, where opportunity thrives, and this is just the beginning. The question is, who will get on board? I know I will, and I encourage everyone who can to visit the Expo before it ends at the end of March. If not for business reasons, then as a personal and cultural experience, for it is truly one of a kind and a transformative life experience.