Alexander Malaket: Can we – the World Trade Board & Symposium – achieve something meaningful and substantive? Just watch us.

Posted on:
January 3, 2017

Blogs are the author’s own opinion and not necessarily representative of Finastra or the World Trade Board.

Blog post from Alexander Malaket, President of OPUS Advisory Services and Senior Advisor to the World SME Forum, on how positive engagement is the constructive driver for the success of the World Trade Symposium and Board.

Positive Engagement: Contrarian but Constructive…and Critical

It seems easy, even fashionable today to get caught up in a worldview that sees much as broken, deteriorating almost bereft of hope or potential. A view that suggests many of us lost some version of a “Golden Age” and are sliding inexorably into decline. This is not pessimism, goes the argument, but a sober, realistic look at the current state of global affairs.

There is no doubt that we, collectively, face a range of unprecedented security, economic and social challenges – perhaps even some that are spiritual and existential in nature – yet a balanced perspective must also recognize the tremendous progress achieved on numerous fronts, including poverty alleviation, environmental consciousness, broadened political engagement driven in part by enabling technologies and social networks, and a maturing global conversation about the need for inclusiveness, the wider role of business in the communities it thrives in and serves, and the (still) important role of trade and multilateralism in global advancement.

The World Trade Board (WTB) and the World Trade Symposium (WTS) were envisioned as a bold exercise in positive, constructive engagement aimed at taking on a few selected issues with potential for global impact, complementing the work of thoughtful leadership around the world, aspiring to address (or help address) a couple of gaps in discourse, deliberation and action that could help advance the world in a positive direction.

There is clearly an implicit judgment in defining what is a “positive direction”, and based on our shared dialogue to date at Board level and in the context of the first WTS held in London last June, it is clear that a group of informed experts have come together to take a path that is positive, constructive and concrete in its objectives. At its core, the WTB and the WTS aspire to take initiatives that make a demonstrable difference in people’s lives.

A path that acknowledges the imperfections of the current system of world trade and globalization, that sees clearly the adverse impacts of corruption in all its forms, the destructive force of self-interest and the dangerous consequences of inaction and apathy, as well as the underpinning role of inequality of opportunity in all these dynamics, but sees in the pursuit of international engagement and trade, a credible and promising engine to drive forward some of the boldest aspirations of humanity.

Trade, and the global architecture which supports and enables trade, are imperfect, yet they have been core to the human experience since the beginning, and have been unquestionably transformational – from the Silk Road to the “One Belt, One Road”, there can be no doubt that trade is a force in the human experience, and one of relatively few realms of activity where policy, commerce, global governance and civil society can come together to take measures that have global implications and impact, that help advance regional and national economies, or assist a micro-enterprise in Africa or South Asia to engage in export sales, thus helping a village or a family to improve its own circumstances while providing a product or a service that is required somewhere halfway around the world.

The WTB and WTS are emphatically about positive international engagement, unambiguously about the notion that this is a time for aspiration and visionary, connected leadership, a moment in history that demands a focus on the bigger picture, and a resistance to the reflex that promotes isolationism, posturing and the zero-sum mentality that is in the end, unsustainable.

This is a time for positive engagement – a time to counter the least productive and most destructive elements of our shared experience through greater appreciation for the interconnected nature of the human experience, and thus a time to take measures that support and strengthen that interconnectedness with the ultimate objective of rising all boats, like the tide. This is that way that will allow us to effectively address the largest of problems we face collectively, and also that way that will enable us to take on the greatest opportunities on the cusp of which we stand today.

Positive engagement may indeed be a contrarian position today, but it is the constructive way forward to which the WTB and the WTS are committed – and it is, precisely because of the current context and environment – critical that other groups involved in issues of global reach adopt a similarly confident, constructive and positive posture in delivering against their respective remits.

Can we achieve something meaningful and substantive on this basis?

The World Trade Board and the World Trade Symposium.

Just watch us.