World services trade is set to boom with digitization and e-commerce, and China's flagship fair kicking off September 3 will provide a platform for more international cooperation in this field, a World Trade Organization (WTO) official said.
Chai Xiaolin, director of the WTO's Trade in Services and Investment Division, said the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) taking place in Beijing from September 4 to September 9 is set to further bolster the role of global services and services trade.
"The forthcoming CIFTIS is a substantial and tremendous effort from China, as it is not only an international gathering of great importance and magnitude, but also the very first one held since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic," Chai told Xinhua in a recent written interview.
The CIFTIS 2020, one of the world's largest comprehensive fairs for trade in services, has both online and offline events due to the global pandemic situation.
Under the theme of "Global Services, Shared Prosperity," the CIFTIS 2020 will host a total of 190 forums with over 17,000 companies attending. During the fair, a number of reports and new technology applications will also be released.
"In the long run, CIFTIS will continue to advance services and services trade as key contributors to the world economic recovery and world trade development," Chai said.
Future of services trade
Chai said that the future of trade in services will be shaped by four trends: digitization, the rise in income, demographic development and climate change.
"Digitization is further realizing the potential for the cross-border supply of services. E-commerce related services trade has now taken up an increasing share of the world trade in services," she noted.
According to World Bank data, the services industry represents around 65 percent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP). In China, services also make up an increasing share of its GDP and currently account for some 54 percent of the country's output.
"Services trade has been growing (5.4 percent) faster than trade in goods (4.6 percent) annually since 2005, reaching $13.3 trillion in 2017," she wrote, citing numbers of the WTO's latest annual World Trade Report.
"These trends will lead to changes in the way trade is done, with more trade realized digitally, change in consumption patterns, as well as increasing demand for health and environmental related services," she said.
Chai said hosting the event during the COVID-19 pandemic shows the importance that China attaches to international cooperation.
"CIFTIS will serve as an important platform to enhance understanding on the role of services and services trade as the backbone of the economy, strengthen policy dialogue and coordination, provide trade and investment facilitation for business communities," she wrote.
The event came as the WTO in its annual trade forecast in April showed that the world trade is set to plummet 13-32 percent in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts normal economic activity and life around the world.
A 2021 recovery in trade is expected, but depends on the duration of the outbreak and the effectiveness of the policy responses, the global trade body warned.
"The WTO will continue to play an indispensable role in making multilateral rules to respond to the call of the international marketplace and to the sustained global economic growth," Chai said.
"China is an important member of the WTO, and with its rich experience from a fast-growing services market and e-commerce sector, China has been very active in the WTO discussions and negotiations on e-commerce, services domestic regulation, and investment facilitation for development with concrete proposals and contributions to advance the rule making process," she noted.