28 November 2018 at 16:58 BST

Blockchain needs legal and multi-stakeholder dialogue

New WTO publication analyses Blockchain, sees IP benefits but flags legal issues needing addressed through stakeholder dialogue.

WTO's Roberto Azevedo wants the facts Shutterstock

Amid growing interest and debate on Blockchain, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has launched a new publication that seeks to demystify the technology and analyse its capacity to transform world trade.

IP benefits

The publication entitled ‘Can Blockchain revolutionize international trade?’ explores how the technology could enhance areas related to WTO work and examines challenges that will have to be tackled to unlock the technology’s potential. The publication introduces the technology with a basic explanation of how, as a tamper-proof, decentralized record of transactions, it allows participants to collaborate and build trust with each other.  It describes different classifications of Blockchains and their current and possible applications in the various areas covered by WTO rules. In doing so, it provides an insight into the extent to which this technology could help with trade facilitation, including how it can hasten the transition to paperless trade transactions. It considers Blockchain's potential and limits in transforming services by looking at payment systems, insurance and the automation of contracts. The publication also discusses how Blockchain could help ease the administration of intellectual property rights and enhance government procurement processes.

Legal issues

The publication reviews various challenges that must be addressed before the technology can be used on a wide scale and have a significant impact on international trade. These include issues such as whether the technology can be scaled up for large or complex applications, how immune it is to security threats, to what extent various Blockchain platforms can be used in an integrated manner, and which legal issues need to be ironed out to increase mainstream use of the technology. The publication calls for a multi-stakeholder dialogue to assess the practical and legal implications of the technology and to develop collective solutions to existing challenges while providing the flexibility for the technology to thrive. WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo said, ‘while this technology opens interesting opportunities, clearly it also raises legal, regulatory and policy issues that deserve our attention. We need to consider how to spread the opportunities and overcome the challenges. We can only do this if we are in full possession of the facts.’ The publication can be found here.

 
   
 
 
 

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