WTO Public Forum 2017: Automation, Work and the Role of Trade in Services: Understanding Transformations, Exploring Opportunities - Can Trade Policy Help?

September 27, 2017 - 3:30pm - 5:00pm

WTO Room E


Automation is in the process of transforming work, radically. Analysts may debate what percentage of today’s jobs may be lost to automation by 2030, but the numbers are in any case staggering. The impact will be tremendous – and affect the struggle to achieve several of the SDGs.  

This session explores what could, or should be a logical consequence, one that should be of great interest to trade (and other) policy makers: If less human work is needed for the production of goods and certain services, then more people will be free to perform additional tasks that improve overall welfare, including in sectors that may currently be ‘undervalued.’ Most of these new tasks will – that much seems clear - be services.

This suggests that there will be an important role for trade in services in this development. Trade in services may well be the vehicle that allows new jobs to emerge where the suppliers are, and links suppliers with their ‘markets’, which may be consumers, businesses and societies abroad. The threat may turn into opportunity – if we know what we’re doing. 

Do today’s policy makers, do today’s trade negotiators know what their country’s trade in services interests are in 2030? Could they help create the jobs of the future? This session aims to raise key questions, consider cutting edge research, and debate possible answers.