In our ongoing series exploring the links between connectivity and innovation, we spoke with Mike Ducker, chief operating officer and president, FedEx Express International. He leads all customer-facing aspects of the company’s U.S. operations and its international business, spanning more than 220 countries and territories across the globe.
Access: You’ve represented FedEx at recent trade summits. Briefly tell us what you’ve learned about the current state of global trade.
MIKE DUCKER: More and more countries are now convinced of the benefits of freer trade and deeper economic integration. From Asia to Europe to Latin America, countries are seeking increased economic growth through trade, and that’s a good sign. The actual negotiations remain challenging, but many countries seem to be moving in the right direction. We are also seeing a global push to reduce administrative costs and red tape, often referred to as trade facilitation, to make it easier to source and sell globally. This will give a big boost to global trade.
Access: How significant is Japan’s involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement? What’s at the heart of this major international trade policy negotiation?
MD: The addition of Japan, the world’s No. 2 economy, to the existing 11 countries makes the TPP a much more economically important negotiation. It’s really a game changer in the Asia Pacific region, because Japan’s entry puts additional pressure on other countries in the region to join TPP. It’s a very big deal because it will provide increased market access for manufacturers and services companies doing business in Japan, as well as the other economies.
Access: What is the state of the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations? Moving forward, are smaller-scale regional and bilateral trade agreements more likely to drive open trade than “mega agreements,” or is there still hope?
MD: Multilateral trade negotiations in the WTO have proven extremely difficult for a number of reasons. We continue to be hopeful an ambitious global WTO Trade Facilitation deal can be completed by the end of this year. But it’s not surprising that other mega-regional and bilateral trade agreements are moving faster. Countries want to move forward on their trade agendas, and they are finding it much easier to complete deals with other like-minded countries. We support efforts to increase trade whether the agreement is bilateral, regional or multilateral. It’s good for our customers, our business and our country.
Access: Do you believe global trade policy is keeping pace with the rise of e-commerce around the world? How has the internet changed trade negotiations?
MD: The internet has fundamentally changed the way goods and services are bought and sold, and our trade agreements have not kept pace with these changes. Most of our trade rules were not written for a small business or an individual consumer who is processing international trade shipments. We have a real opportunity to improve the customer experience for cross-border transactions, which will open up enormous new opportunities for buyers and sellers and, of course, transportation companies. Efforts that streamline customs clearance and simplify the movement of small shipments across borders will drive increased trade and help create jobs.
Access: How important are the trade negotiations between the U.S. and the European Union?
MD: Extremely important. The U.S. and the EU represent the largest trade and investment relationship in the world. These negotiations will help deepen economic integration and make trade between the U.S. and the EU faster, cheaper and more seamless. Most of the current barriers to transatlantic trade are regulations and standards, not tariffs. So most of the benefits of this agreement will come from making our regulations more compatible. This will be tough work, but the potential benefits are huge.