Rolf Heuer, Director General of CERN, was the keynote speaker for the second day’s plenary session. There were a lot of confused faces when he got up to speak, all asking the same question “What has physics got to do with international trade?”. Mr Heuer’s speech turned out to be one of the most interesting I listened to over the course of the forum. He spoke about how discoveries and breakthroughs in physics have underpinned the creation of new technologies that are used every day to manage the transport, tracking and safety of goods and services moving around the world. Furthermore, he discussed how important the research they are currently doing at CERN will be to the world economy in the future, even in ways we cannot right now foresee.
This idea of technological innovation being crucial to improved efficiency of trade was complemented by the idea that innovation need not necessarily be in electronics/technology. Another speaker pointed out that one of the most important innovations which has helped facilitate trade was the creation of standardised shipping container sizes. This has made the process of storing, transporting and offloading bulk goods much easier, as heavy machinery could be designed to match the container specifications exactly. It was on this day that I also met a senior member of New Zealand’s permanent mission to the WTO and UN. His insights into the conversations between country delegates over trade disputes and negotiations were very interesting given it revealed what incentives and factors influence these situations.
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