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Participants of the March 29, 2016 Vi videoconference on the 2015 Information Economy Report (IER)Twenty-two students and professors from Russian affiliate member, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), joined UNCTAD's Torbjörn Fredriksson for a Vi videoconference presentation of the 2015 Information Economy Report (IER) March 29.

"Global e-commerce is expanding fast, with developing economies gaining prominence," Fredriksson said as he introduced the report, which examines opportunities and challenges for enterprises in developing countries engaged in electronic commerce (e-commerce).

According to the IER 2015, the value of global business to business (B2B) e-commerce increased substantially in the past decade and in 2013 exceeded USD 15 trillion. Global business-to-consumer (B2C) is also rapidly expanding, particularly in developing countries of Asia and Africa, thanks in large part to the "mobile revolution" and increased use of the Internet.

Although most of the top e-commerce companies are from the United States and China, Russia is also a big player, ranking sixth in the top 10 largest B2C markets in terms of the number of online buyers. However, the country ranks lower in terms of revenues generated by e-commerce. The main factor pulling down Russia's position in the UNCTAD B2C E-commerce Index was low credit card use among Russian citizens.

Fredriksson highlighted the great potential of e-commerce for advancing the economic and social development objectives of developing countries in particular, such as enhanced participation in global value chains, greater market access and lower transaction costs.

But entry in the e-commerce arena may be challenging for new actors, as "some existing players may be too large and it will be difficult for some companies to face their competition," he said. "Many governments are also concerned with tax erosion and transfer pricing."  

The IER 2015 calls for pragmatic solutions protecting the interests of consumers and the State without disrupting the free exchange of trade and investment.

"International cooperation and effective dialogue between policymakers and other stakeholders are crucial to create a proper environment that provides more equal opportunities for stakeholders in different locations and areas of society," he said.  

Fredriksson concluded his presentation by announcing the upcoming UNCTAD E-Commerce Week to be held in Geneva April 18-22, where some 200 people from all over the world will be meeting to discuss issues related to e-commerce, trade and development.

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