Emmanuelle Ganne: Disrupting trade through blockchain

Technological advancement has always shaped trade. Many people have hailed blockchain as the next great game-changer in recent years. The advancement of technology in capital markets is providing the potential to increase flexibility, scale efficiency, and minimize market complexity. And Emmanuelle Ganne is driving this transformation. The international trade expert believes that trade can be a powerful engine of growth for everyone. She advocates for efficiency and inclusiveness. She aspires to make a difference in the world and have a global impact for the better.

Emmanuelle is a Senior Analyst in the Economic Research and Statistics Division of the World Trade Organization (WTO), where she leads WTO work on blockchain. She is a member of the governing board of the ICC Digital Standards Initiative (DSI) and the government advisory board of the International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (INATBA). She also leads WTO work on micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. For her work, she was nominated as one of the Top 10 Notable Women in the Blockchain Industry by 101 Blockchains. She was featured in the 2020 and 2021 Inspirational Women in Trade and Trade Finance campaigns of Trade Finance Global and the 2019 campaign of Women Who Rock International Trade of the Global Trade and Professional Alliance.

Moreover, she is the author of a 2018 book entitled "Can Blockchain Revolutionize International Trade?" and is a regular speaker at blockchain events. The publication discusses the potential of blockchain for reducing trade costs and enhancing supply chain transparency, as well as the opportunities it provides for small-scale producers and companies.

Before this, she held various positions at the WTO, including as Counselor to Director-General Pascal Lamy, and in the Accessions Division, where she assessed the trade policies of governments wishing to join the WTO. She advised them on how to improve their business environment. From the years 2015 to 2017, she held the position of Vice-President and Managing Director for Europe at the Allam Advisory Group (AAG), a team of former C-level executives and senior diplomats that specializes in helping businesses expand their operations globally. She is a Yale World Fellow.

"The pandemic has shown that going digitalization is not only a nice to have, it is a must have,"

Working at WTO
The WTO is the global inter-governmental body dealing with the rules of trade between nations. The goal of the organization, as per the preamble of the Marrakesh Agreement which established the Organization, is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably, and freely as possible, to raise standards of living, ensure full-employment, and support sustainable development to allow that trade to deliver for ordinary people.

Emmanuelle has two responsibilities at the WTO—she leads work on micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and on blockchain/DLT to help make trade more inclusive and efficient. The goal is to make trade deliver for small businesses. She highlights small businesses are the backbone of the world economy, representing more than 90 percent of companies worldwide and accounting for two-thirds of employment. "Yet, their participation in international trade remains limited. The smaller the size, the bigger the challenges they face in trading internationally," explains Emmanuelle. In December 2017, a group of 88 governments (currently 94) established an Informal Working Group to look into the challenges that small businesses are facing in trading internationally. Its primary objectives include helping small businesses to better access information on other markets, having their views taken into consideration when new policies are being developed, and improving their accessibility to finance.

Whereas, the second objective that is driving her work is to help make trade more efficient. She explains that international trade is still very paper-and labor-intensive, and that this was especially difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people had to work from home and were unable to sign documents. Distributed ledger technology (DLT), often referred to as blockchain, can be particularly useful to enhance the transparency of supply chains, break existing silos by allowing the various actors involved in trade activities to interact on a peer-to-peer basis, in quasi-real-time and in a highly secure environment, and help move away from the reign of paper in trade. Moreover, it can also help with cost-cutting. The potential of this technology to make trade more efficient and inclusive is significant and has been argued in her book.

Emmanuelle believes that governments have a key role to play in supporting the use of blockchain for trade. Trade digitalization requires more than mere technology; it requires a legal and regulatory environment conducive to the large-scale deployment of this technology in trade. "Legislation is needed to recognize e-signatures and e-documents, and to allow the transfer of e-documents across borders," she asserts. For trade digitalization to become a reality, governments need to adopt the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records, for example. A key part of her work is to act as a bridge between the private sector and trade officials to help inform policy discussions and help catalyze action.

Emmanuelle Ganne: Disrupting trade through blockchain
Emmanuelle Ganne

Blockchain—the change
Emmanuelle immediately saw potential in the blockchain technology when she started working with it. Many initiatives leveraging blockchain for trade were developed by the private sector, and until recently there was little awareness at the policy level about the potential of this technology for trade. The gap between fast-paced private sector initiatives and perceptions on the public sector side led her to publish a book, "Can Blockchain Revolutionize International Trade?" in the year 2018. Her motive was to try and build a bridge between the private sector and the public sector. She is on a mission to make government officials understand the true potential of Blockchain/DLT for trade and the role they can play to support the deployment of this technology in trade while mitigating the risks that may arise. This led her to attempt and drive change to support trade digitalization through blockchain, becoming the voice of blockchain for trade. "My work was first met with scepticism among trade officials, but many now realize the potential of this technology," she mentions. Her work has changed the perceptions of many regarding blockchain technology and helped advance the thinking on these issues. She shares, "The best recognition I got was the success of my book, which has now become a reference in trade circles."

Emmanuelle believes the current pandemic has shown the importance of having greater visibility into supply chains as well as access to real-time data to better assess supply chains bottlenecks. "The pandemic has shown that going digitalization is not only a nice to have, it is a must have," she asserts. She is tirelessly working and advocating to bring digitalization to trade. She is closely working with the International Chamber of Commerce in the context of the Digital Standards Initiative to promote standardization of trade data along the supply chain. In her view, standards are essential to allow trade data to flow seamlessly from one end of the supply chain to the other. She says, "Quite a few standards already exist, but their adoption remains limited."

Trading is witnessing a disruption in its long-customary functioning as innovations are being accepted, opening new opportunities. She believes that the current era could be the deciding period for the vast world of global trading. In this time of rapid change, Emmanuelle encourages other aspiring leaders to follow their passions. She encourages leaders to embrace new opportunities that arise. By saying, "In today's world, being successful means being responsive to changes," she implies a leader must embrace the changes by anticipating them and acting proactively towards the opportunities.