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>As we witness the largest delivery of vaccines and essential goods in history, we have an opportunity to boost global trade and create a new standard for inclusion and equity that will lift people up and provide them new opportunities to thrive.
International trade bolsters connections between not just buyers and sellers, but also people and society at large, and has the potential to do so, regardless of race, demographics or geography. After more than a year of COVID-19, we see the cost of lost human connection, and we must work tirelessly to repair the bond between societies, countries and people.  
Rise of E-commerce
Global e-commerce continues to grow rapidly, by most estimates increasing by around 20% this year — and as packages move around the world, they bring with them the promise of protection and a return to “normalcy.” Though the trade lanes facilitating these cross border movements have long been a source of economic debate, there is no denying their role in supporting humanity.  
Economic growth has lifted a billion people out of poverty in the past 30 years, thanks in large part to global trade. For example, trade agreements allowed food to reach countries that don’t produce enough; medicines to reach areas without medical industries; and other goods and services to reach markets lacking local production.  
Growing Equitable Trade
There is no question that UPS benefits from open economic borders, and we proudly ship 3% of global GDP every day. However, for the global trade agenda to not only survive, but thrive in our post-pandemic world, we must help those who have not shared equally in the benefits of trade and design a more inclusive future. 
Take women, for example, arguably the most overlooked drivers of global economic growth. Women’s businesses aren’t growing fast enough, with various pain points making it more difficult for entrepreneurs to achieve commercial success.
Some countries maintain laws that actively discriminate against women, and most countries have regulations that unintentionally disadvantage women-owned businesses. If you aren’t allowed to have a bank account or cannot own property, it’s hard to trade.         
These disadvantages have impeded the progress of women for decades and limited their ability to leverage existing trade agreements to grow their businesses.
Global trade should also enhance racial equity, particularly for racial minorities and indigenous populations. As with women businesses, existing rules need to create equity, and then we can assess capacity building and networking needs to create win-win-win situations. 
 
Investing more in demographics underserved by trade will help us identify whether the solutions lie in top-down policy changes or bottom-up capacity programs. As we’ve witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic, investment in broadband and digital skills will be crucial given the need to accelerate technological adoption around the world.
 
Inclusive Trade
 
Similarly, it will be important to advance guidelines and strategies to ensure that we not only have diverse and inclusive trade policies, but also people from diverse backgrounds executing those policies.
 
We should not view inclusion as a “companion issue” to the larger trade agenda, but rather a central value to achieving a new level of success.
 
Removing obstacles so more people can participate in trade will increase exports, create jobs, provide greater consumer choice and foster a broader and more diversified supplier network. In turn, building a wider circle of beneficiaries will bring more stability to our politics and public discourse.
 
Opportunity
 
One such place to drive meaningful progress is at the next WTO ministerial conference in late 2021, where countries can come together to ensure rules and regulations produce more equitable trade. UPS will bring our voice, our expertise and our resources to this effort, and we welcome all open doors of collaboration.
Trade is a growth engine that fuels connectivity and economic efficiency. However, trade is also disruptive. Trade agreements have the power to reduce existing frictions between countries and speed up structural changes or reforms, but societies must create support programs to enable opportunities for all entrepreneurs to succeed. 
 
Penelope “Penny” Naas is President, International Public Affairs and Sustainability is based in Washington DC and previously in Brussels, Belgium. She manages all international Public Affairs and global sustainability. She previously held senior trade roles at Citigroup and at the U.S. Department of Commerce.  She serves as Co-Chair on the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Trade and Investment. The views expressed are the author's own.