Untethered trade

Something we don't often recognize is how much the Internet has joined steamships, railroads, aircraft, trucks, and pipelines as a primary mode of transport. Indeed, for a steadily expanding range of digitized products and services, the Internet is now the preferred delivery mode

By ·

Something we don’t often recognize is how much the Internet has joined steamships, railroads, aircraft, trucks, and pipelines as a primary mode of transport. Indeed, for a steadily expanding range of digitized products and services, the Internet is now the preferred delivery mode. 

Jock O’Connell, Beacon Economics’ International Trade Adviser, said this development raises some interesting but seldom examined issues.

“The emergence of a frictionless and essentially cost-free means of delivering goods and services worldwide forces economists to rethink some fundamental notions of how distance and time relate to the concept of comparative advantage,” he said. “For trade statisticians and ultimately for policymakers, the fact that the Internet is essentially free of customs posts greatly muddies the cross-border trade data that informs trade policy.”


According to O’Connell, trade statisticians worldwide have been struggling with uneven success to devise ways of quantifying trade in products that not only elude the customary mechanisms for monitoring trade but which frequently defy easy classification.

“A recording of Elgar’s Enigma Variations on a CD clearly qualifies as a good,” he said. “But the very same music downloaded from iTunes to a portable media player is widely regarded as a service. Similarly, what do we make of a software program written in California that is downloaded by an Austrian customer from a server located in Singapore?”

O’Connell maintains that unless the means are found to track the more “ethereal” forms of commerce taking place via the Internet and to produce accurate, detailed statistics on a timely basis, debates over the virtues of free trade and globalization could become even more untethered from any empirical grounding than they already are.

For more articles on global trade click here.


About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

Global Trade · Trade · Transportation · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
New Supply Chain Technology Best Practices
New breakthrough developments, such as drones and driverless vehicles, seem to be everywhere.
Download Today!
From the October 2017 Logistics Management Magazine Issue
A leading distributor of professional salon products in the U.S. forms unique partnerships with its key LTLs to lower transport costs, reduce its carbon footprint and improve service to its 565 store locations.
Q4 2017 Rail/Intermodal Roundtable: Improvements apparent; work remains
LM Viewpoint: Collaboration, Now more than ever
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
The State of the Rail/Intermodal Markets
In this webinar our panel will discuss the new service challenges facing rail/intermodal providers and offer practical advice for how shippers can keep efficiency high and costs down.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
SalonCentric: One Beautiful Network
A leading distributor of professional salon products in the U.S. forms unique partnerships with its...
2017 Alliance Awards: Recognizing outstanding supply chain partnerships
In an era where effective supply chain collaboration is both highly valued and elusive, Logistics...

26th Annual Study of Logistics and Transportation Trends: Transportation at Digital Speed
While a majority of companies strongly agree that transportation is a strategically important...
34th Annual Quest for Quality Awards: Winners Revealed
Which carriers, third-party logistics providers, and North American ports have crossed the service...