Fulfilling the global e-commerce promise

Opening remarks by UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein - Forum on global e-commerce, Berne, Switzerland, 26 March 2014

Dr Hamadoun Touré, secretary general of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU);

Mr Kunio Mikuriya, secretary general of the World Customs Organization (WCO);

Ms Anne Miroux, director of technology and logistics, representing the secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD);

Mr Phillip Jennings, secretary general of UNI Global Union;

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the UPU headquarters for this international forum on e-commerce, and I thank each and every one of you for being here.

I thank the representative from governments, postal authorities, the private sector and international organizations for their presence and their contribution to this forum.

A special thanks also to the moderators who will have the difficult task to lead our discussions in the most efficient manner, especially within the available time. I would like to thank also all the panelists who will share with us their experience and views over the next two days. I am particularly impressed with the large number of participants from organizations representing consumers, research agencies, payment services and of course e-commerce merchants or as they are known today e-tailers.

Let me also thank the chairman of the Postal Operations Council, Mr. Metoki, and the chairs of the different committees that will participate in the discussions as well as the UPU team who worked behind the scenes to put the programme and logistics together, not forgetting the translators and interpreters.  

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

“Fulfilling the global e-commerce promise” - this is the target we have set ourselves. As a United Nations organization with 192 member countries, the UPU provides a global platform where ideas, strategies and solutions are discussed, designed, shared, and implemented. And, as the presence of you demonstrates, it involves stakeholders from the broader industry.      

The role of the UPU is to guarantee the free flow of communication and goods across the globe, over what we call a single postal territory – available to everyone. The network is complex in functions, relationships and partners but to the user it is often a seamless simple experience. That is thanks to the capability, standards, rules and regulations put in place by the UPU and its member countries.

Today, the postal network is challenged to handle more merchandise as a result of e-commerce. While letter mail volumes are declining, e-commerce represents growth opportunities for the industry in terms of parcel and small packet volumes and consequently revenues.

But to ensure equitable access requires networks that are effective, efficient, intelligent and secure. It requires a global solution that includes efficient and effective partnerships with all stakeholders in the e-commerce supply chain – from e-retailers, logistics, airlines, customs and border control, payments, to the last mile delivery and returns.  All related industries need to work together to ensure the free flow of items and making services available to all citizens around the world. The postal network is an essential link in this global supply chain.

However, not all countries are equally advanced. We must therefore consider the evolution of the postal network in order to meet the new demands and ensure that everyone can be part of it.

A network that functions well can bring economic and social development. And e-commerce has become the fuel for economic development in many countries, particularly with regard to Micro, Small and Medium size enterprises. The postal network has been an enabler of equitable access for MSMEs for a long time and e-commerce is creating new opportunities. The evolution of the postal network to a global network for fulfilling cross-border e-commerce can create profound opportunities for emerging and developing countries to grow their exports, make their goods available in new markets, encourage foreign exchange payments, provide trust and ultimately – make them part of the global marketplace.

Globalization brought about by the Internet has opened many doors for emerging and developing economies. Look at the BRICS for example. I just returned from South America where the postal network is playing an important role in social and economic inclusion. It is now time for us to address the link between the digital and physical networks and make the fulfilment of e-commerce a truly global experience.       

But as I mentioned earlier, we cannot do it alone. We need industry partners and international partners. And for that reason I am pleased to welcome this morning the heads of three international organizations, ITU, UNCTAD and the World Customs Organization with whom we are working closely in fulfilling the promise. Each of them, in their fields of responsibility - telecommunications and technology, trade and customs are bringing the necessary components to ensure an integrated approach for the development of e-commerce.

The UPU and ITU are working together to strengthen the capacity of our respective sectors to deliver the e-commerce promise through the development of mobile payment standards, the dot.post platform, connectivity of post offices and development of new services and business models. In this regard, I am pleased to announce that I will today sign a new Memorandum of Understanding with my friend Dr Touré of ITU. Through this new partnership we will continue to work together. In fact, e-commerce is bringing Posts and Telecoms back together!

The UPU and UNCTAD have close ties since 2005 as co-facilitators of the UN Information Society Action line on e-business. The renewal of these ties in the post 2015 agenda is currently being debated in the UN system. We are also exploring concrete collaboration on trade facilitation and integration of technology solutions for improving customs data.

Relations between the UPU and the World Customs Organizations have been historically close. I had the honour to speak last year at the annual council meeting of WCO in Brussels. My key message was that Customs and the UPU both serve the citizens of the world, facilitating trade, while ensuring the security of our networks. As parcel volumes have risen, so have safety concerns about their contents crossing borders. To ensure that delivery to the customer is not delayed by such concerns, Posts are working with customs authorities to speed up the flow of goods, while guaranteeing public safety. The UPU is working with WCO to ensure this is coordinated on a global scale.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Our discussions will address all the challenges faced by e-commerce stakeholders - merchants and e-tailers, consumers and customers, postal operators and their workers. We will listen today to their expectations, their strategies and perspectives. Tomorrow we will focus on the operational solutions: product development, supply chain integration, interoperability and payment solutions.

Let me conclude by saying that I strongly believe that the postal network is key to an inclusive and integrated e-commerce industry. In fact, I would like to state that without the postal network, the e-commerce promise cannot be fulfilled! Therefore, let us join efforts to deliver the e-commerce promise and make it a truly inclusive global experience.

Thank you.