The Stack Archive Article

Open data flows: the lifeblood of trade

Mon 30 Jan 2017 | Michael Mudd

Over 300 years ago Edward Lloyd’s coffee house in London was a popular place for sailors, merchants and ship owners to meet. To keep customers coming back to his shop, Lloyd catered to them with reliable shipping news. Thus the reason the shipping industry community frequented his place was for information. This eventually led to discussions on how to mitigate the financial impact of high losses of commercial ships in those days (as high as every second ship) and eventually to arrange co ownership and to insurance deals among themselves.

Thus it was a place to swap intelligence on their trade – this was the precursor of modern markets and led directly to the formation of the global shipping insurance exchange that bears Lloyds name and not coincidentally, joint stock exchange markets.

A hundred and fifty years later Hong Kong was founded as an entrepôt – a free trade zone on the coast of China, Singapore was the gateway to the Spice Islands. In both ports the import and export business could flourish unimpeded as the colonial power was 3 months sail away.

Fast forward to the late 20th century and Hong Kong played a key role as China opened once again to direct trade with the wider world and Singapore to South East Asia. This period also coincided with the most rapid change in technology since the industrial revolution over 250 years previously. This confluence has led today to Hong Kong, a barren rock as it has often been described and Singapore a former swamp, both to be ranked in the top five financial centres in the world. Some indices say the third and fourth after London and New York, both fitting nicely in the three principal time zones of the 24 hours global economy of the 21st century.

What has enabled this has been the unrestricted flow of information, from shipping reports to trade volumes and financial markets. This is why data must flow to enable transparency in trade which is to the advantage of both buyers and sellers. The benefits of this are being seen today in the proliferation of online market and trading places – some of which are worth billions already – which enable the ‘small guy’ to be seen and heard.

The enduring power of information, networking and the centrality of markets, and why data must flow to enable transparency in trade which has proven to ultimately lower costs to consumers. This debate has been echoed in EU-US trade talks and in Geneva since 2015, where diplomats from two dozen major trading economies have been trying to update the two-decade-old rules governing the global trade in services.

Anupam Chander, a cyber law expert at the University of California, Davis, argues that ensuring the free flow of data has become one of the biggest issues confronting business, trade

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Michael Mudd

Managing Partner APP LLC
Asia Policy Partners LLC

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