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Emerging markets, opportunities and challenges

Harsha Vardhana Singh, deputy director-general at the World Trade Organization, emphasized the importance of the multilateral trading system by quoting President Obama from his remarks at the 2009 G20 economic summit: “We are living through a time of global economic challenges that cannot be met by half measures or the isolated efforts of any nation.”

Singh — speaking to nearly 150 people Thursday night in the Snell Engineering Building — also cited estimates that by 2030, developing countries will contribute two-thirds of global growth and half of the global output. Emerging markets, he said, are creating major interlinkages and new business opportunities worldwide.

“This greater need to rely on the multilateral trading system arises due to new emerging centers of economic importance in the world,” Singh said as part of the Center for Emerging Markets’ Distinguished Speaker Series.

The center is a clearinghouse for the latest ideas on business opportunities springing up in developing international markets around the world — such as China, Brazil and India — and has given the College of Business Administration a strong voice on such issues of global importance.

The center’s director, Ravi Ramamurti, Distinguished Professor of International Business and Strategy, introduced Singh by highlighting his 18 years at the WTO and his previous work as an economic advisor at the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, where he said Singh “helped create the wireless revolution that has transformed the country.”

“If you look at the long haul and what WTO has accomplished, it’s done a marvelous job opening up the global economy to free trade, and more importantly bringing stability and predictability to the system,” Ramamurti said.

For his part, Singh said the interconnections between businesses and countries worldwide will only become more enhanced in the future. He said the WTO plays an important role in addressing the global challenges that have come with the onset of globalization and emerging markets, such as poverty and the struggle to give workers the skill sets to leverage technological advances. These challenges also relate to the environmental effects of global trade, a growing middle-class worldwide, and rising energy and food costs, he said.

“The major challenge we face today is how to manage the transition from the present period that combines these immense changes in the international scene to a period that will bring greater synergistic and supportive business means across multiple nations. This will require a multilateral trading system,” he said.

Singh said it is a daunting prospect to think about bringing multilateral solutions to the challenges created by globalization and emerging markets. But he brought his lecture full circle by closing his remarks with another quote, this time from former South African President Nelson Mandela.

“It always seems impossible until it is done,” Singh said.

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