Letter: Global trade needs a radical reimagining


Sarah O’Connor is right to point out the inequality in modern supply chains (“The Hidden Costs of Powerful Buyers and Cheap Prices”, Opinion, September 21).

For nearly seven decades, supply chain operators have pursued a relentless race to the bottom in terms of costs. When something is cheap, it means someone is paying for it. More often than not, it is those who can least afford it who end up footing the bill.

When supply chains collapsed, suppliers at the bottom of the ladder found themselves with nowhere to go. In a time of food shortage during the lockdown, African smallholder farmers were teaching crops in the fields because their wholesalers couldn’t ship them. The same inflexible model means that vulnerable suppliers are forced into a “take it or leave it” negotiation on prices.

We need a radical re-imagining of global commerce, away from vulnerable “chains” where a broken link causes chaos, and towards a more open network where businesses of all sizes and from all geographies connect and trade freely. Such networks depend on digital technologies to forge connections between businesses, providing flexibility for buyers and greater market access for suppliers.

Innovators like Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus saw that giving marginalized communities access to finance and opportunities was the most effective way to help them improve their situation. Others, like Jon Bosak, a pioneer in the standardization of computer data languages, saw the power of technology to bring us together. Their vision and that of others like them provide the blueprint for building supply chains that are as equitable and sustainable as they are resilient.

Mikkel Hippe Brun
Co-founder, Tradeshift
Copenhagen, Denmark


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