Global Illicit Trade 2018

The shadow economy: gaining public- and private-sector support is vital in the fight against illicit trade

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - Media OutReach - 22nd March 2018 - The existence of illicit trade has been an enduring issue that has escalated in scope and magnitude. Since the complexity of the shadow economy makes it hard to combat this growing issue in isolation, public- and private-sector support is vital.

Advancing this conversation, over 120 prominent experts from government, law enforcement, international organisations, industry, and academia across the region gathered at Hilton Kuala Lumpur for the second Global Illicit Trade Summit hosted by The Economist Events . The full-day summit themed 'Out of the Shadows' opened with a holistic view of illicit trade in the global environment before outlining the need to make it a mainstream conversation so that consumers are aware of its impact, and how progress can be made in combatting it.

Speaking to conference attendees, Normah Osman, senior director, Multilateral Trade Policy and Negotiations at The Ministry of Trade and Industry Malaysia , described the allure of illicit goods: "Consumers are naturally attracted to them due to the lower prices and the social status conferred by the access to premium brands. Sometimes purchasers are not even aware they are participating in illicit activity as they are duped into thinking they are purchasing genuine items when in reality, they have bought knock-offs."

The murkiness in defining what illicit trade is has a role in keeping the activity in the shadows, as observed by Ali Salman, director of research at The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs: ''Having a common definition of just what constitutes illicit trade will directly impact the ability of the authorities to better coordinate enforcement.''

Throughout the dialogues, delegates addressed the role of policymakers and governance within an economy shadowed by black market and money laundering, crypto currencies and the opening of free-trade zones, contraband and counterfeit luxury goods, including the illegal trades in cigarettes, arms and narcotics. Connecting and mobilising businesses across industries, sectors and national borders during the summit made it possible to establish concrete action points.

Another key highlight of the event was the panel discussion on globalisation and the role of governance to curb illicit trade. The session titled "Regulations -- Less is more?" discussed the importance of global regulatory frameworks that has allowed counterfeiters to benefit across borders.

Guilherme Silva, managing director at JTI Malaysia stressed the urgency of the situation: "Malaysia has seen such rapid movement in its taxation and regulation, creating a market where 55% of the cigarettes in the country are illegal. Balanced regulation must cater to the needs of the country and the economics of the industry. There is a huge opportunity for the authorities to truly listen and gain different perspectives that will help stronger enforcement by using the industry as consultants."

Outlining a potential model for collaboration for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), Seth Hays, Asia-Pacific chief representative at The International Trademark Association described some best practices: "There are IPR Enforcement Centres of Excellence where various enforcement agencies come together in China and the United States. What these centres lack at present, is industry representation. There is great opportunity for the ASEAN Economic Community and participants in the One Belt One Road Initiative, to "bake" into itself, IP respect and protection, giving brands and rights owners, a voice at the table."

Featured speakers included:

  • Normah Osman, senior director, multilateral trade policy and negotiations division, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia
  • Deborah Elms, executive director, Asian Trade Centre
  • Ali Salman, director of research, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs
  • Silvino Schlickmann Junior, acting executive director, INTERPOL
  • Guilherme Silva, managing director, JTI Malaysia
  • David Luna, president and chief executive officer, Luna Global Networks & Convergence Strategies
  • Vispi Patel, managing director, Asia, L Catterton
  • Jessica Pyman, partner, Hong Kong, Mintz Group
  • Jeremy Douglas, regional representative, South-East Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Office o n Drugs and Crime
  • Luc De Blieck, deputy director, compliance and facilitation directorate, World Customs Organization
  • Shishir Priyadarshi, director, development division, World Trade Organization

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