Digital technologies, including blockchain and artificial intelligence, have great potential and can significantly improve existing trade channels, according to a recent report of the World Trade Organization.

Blockchain Transforms Trade

The World Trade Organization published a new report entitled “The Future of World Trade: How Digital Technologies Are Transforming Global Commerce”, which examines how the blockchain technology helps improve global trade and mentions the most promising applications of this technology.

"Innovations in cross-border payments and financial services further facilitate trade – for example, e-commerce platforms that circumvent traditional payment systems through blockchain technologies may help to bring down the transaction costs of cross-border trade."

The blockchain may enhance the transparency of supply chains, accelerate the digitalization of trade processes and automate contractual transactions via smart contracts, the report says. At the same time, one of the advantages of the blockchain networks is that the cost of their attacks for hackers and scammers is so high that it makes such attacks unlikely to happen.

"Hacking a blockchain network is economically inefficient and extremely hard in practice, but a 51 per cent attack – i.e. an attack by a group that controls more than 50 per cent of the network's computing power – is not impossible."

Authors of the report mention also risks related to the blockchain technology, such as problems with scaling and regulatory issues.

“Trade and technology are closely interlinked. From the invention of the wheel, to the railways, to the advent of containerization, technology has constantly played a key role in shaping the way we trade – and this phenomenon is accelerating like never before. We are living through an era of unprecedented technological change, and a series of innovations that leverage the internet could have a major impact. For example, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and Blockchain have the potential to profoundly transform the way we trade, who trades and what is traded,” wrote WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo in the foreword to the report.

According to him, the blockchain technology is capable of benefiting small and medium enterprises by reducing operational costs, while "helping smaller businesses to start trading by supporting them in building trust with partners around the world. "

Blockchain: from environmental protection to charity

Earlier, the World Economic Forum presented more than 65 examples of using blockchain technology to solve environmental problems.  In a report titled 'Building Block(chain)s for a Better Planet', the WEF singled out dozens of blockchain-based applications that can be used to solve environmental problems.

Among the possible applications, the WEF enlists blockchain platforms for peer-to-peer electricity trading using smart contracts, services for tracking the supply chain, and greenhouse gas monitoring. In addition, the WEF sees potential in launching crowdsales to finance green energy projects and charity programs for biodiversity conservation.

According to the WEF, these initiatives are able to introduce new financing models in the sphere of environmental protection, realize natural capital and improve the effectiveness of interaction between various organizations and people.