Emmanuelle Ganne, Senior Analyst, Economic Research and Statistics Division at World Trade Organization (WTO), is a specialist in international commerce, trade policy, global governance, and diplomacy with a wide range of expertise.
At WTO, Emmanuelle leads work on blockchains and SMEs. She is a regular speaker at blockchain events and, in 2018, wrote the book “Can Blockchain Revolutionize International trade?”, which is widely acknowledged as a reference on this topic.
Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between World’s Leaders and Emmanuelle Ganne.
Brief our audience about your journey as a leader. What challenges you had to face to reach where you are today?
The world of international trade remains traditional in many ways and is still very paper-intensive. When I started looking into blockchain’s potential for international trade, I realized that people around me knew very little about the technology and often reduced it to cryptocurrencies. Many dismissed it. This prompted me to write my 2018 book “Can Blockchain Revolutionize International Trade?” to raise awareness about the relevance of this technology for international trade, to try to build a bridge between the business community and government officials, and to make trade diplomats realize that they have a key role to play in enabling the development of this technology to support the move towards paperless trade.
The first reactions in trade diplomatic circles were often circumspect, but my work was met with great interest from the business side. The international recognition I received from businesses has proved important to helping me push these issues at the WTO.
Describe how the World Trade Organization can help push Blockchain for trade?
The WTO is a rules-based Organization and has, in my view, a critical role to play in supporting the widescale deployment of this technology to facilitate international trade, for two reasons. First, because the code needs law. Technology is only a tool. Blockchain and DLT applications in trade can only be used on a large scale if an enabling legal and regulatory environment is put in place to allow them to be deployed widely. We need to make sure, for example, that e-signatures are recognized and that electronic documents, including negotiable instruments, can be transferred across borders. On these two fronts, a lot of work remains to be done to support trade digitalization. Discussions on issues related to digital trade are underway at the WTO in the context of the joint initiative on ecommerce.
Second, blockchain is a global technology and international trade is cross-jurisdictional by nature. Having a coordinated approach at a multilateral level on these issues is essential.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact on this industry through your expertise?
My role has been to raise awareness, initiate a digital transformation journey and build knowledge of trade officials through research, publications and events on issues related to blockchain for trade to support their rule-making work. The 2019 and 2021 Global Trade & Blockchain Forums brought together hundreds of practitioners and trade officials to discuss issues related to blockchain for trade and help bring these issues to the WTO.
I recently developed, in cooperation with the International Trade Center, the first online course on blockchain for trade aimed primarily at SMEs. Building a bridge with the private sector has been one of my priorities. I’ve been working closely with the International Chamber of Commerce – and represent the WTO on the governing board of the ICC Digital Standards Initiative.
What are the challenges you and your team at the World Trade Organization come across in your day-to-day operations?
Another part of my work relates to SMEs: trying to make their lives as exporters easier. Because they have limited resources, SMEs struggle to participate in international trade.
When interacting with SMEs, I realize how critical trade digitalization is for them, how it could be a game changer for them, but also how much support they need.
Bringing the voice of businesses to the WTO and trying to make the world of diplomacy move in synch with business is essential. This connection with the private sector is important and needs to be nurtured.
What people, what books, what life factors have influenced and impacted you?
I think my journey has been largely influenced by a trip I made to Burkina-Faso with my parents when I was a child. During this trip, we met a local craftsman who was making beautiful leather bags. He was selling them to neighbouring places and the earnings were just enough to allow him and his family to live. My father put him in contact with Artisan du Monde, a fair-trade association that sells handicrafts from all over the world, and had a local store in the center of Lyon, my hometown. The opportunity to sell internationally transformed the life of this local craftsman. This experience showed me first-hand how trade can be a powerful lever of development, provided we give small players a chance to trade and help them overcome the burdensome procedures they grapple with.
Describe the values and the work culture that drive the World Trade Organization.
The preamble of the Marrakesh Agreement, which is the agreement establishing the WTO, is clear: the WTO is about raising standards of living, ensuring full employment, making trade work better. It is about people. The WTO is a value-based organization.
Where do you envision yourself being in the long run and what are your future goals for the World Trade Organization?
I have a long-term vision, but I do not want to tie my hands with a long-term plan. What I believe is critical in today’s world is to remain curious and agile, to keep an eye on new developments and to seize new opportunities. By pushing Blockchain for trade and trade digitalization, I want to make sure that the WTO remains relevant and contributes the best it can to making trade more efficient and more inclusive.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
The world is changing fast. We need people with passion, vision, and energy to drive change and make the world a better place. Be bold, ambitious and innovative. Go for it!