Tech and a tangle: Alum, eBay executive outlines how e-commerce is challenging policymakers

Tech and a tangle: Alum, eBay executive outlines how e-commerce is challenging policymakers

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July 08, 2014

How can international commerce policies keep pace with technological innovation? Brian Bieron ’87 leads an eBay think tank that’s working on answers – and shared some early results with interns in TWC’s Business and Global Trade program in July.


“Technology allows small companies to compete globally – something that literally has not been possible” until recent years, said Bieron, eBay’s senior director of global public policy.


He shared some eye-opening statistics about how the internet-based economy has dramatically increased exports and boosted local economies in nations such as India and Nigeria. Those and other developing nations will drive internet economy’s growth over the next decade, Bieron explained, especially in the mobile market.


Yet while web-based commerce has enabled artisans and small businesses to scale up without making large investments, the pace of the change has created regulatory conundrums for governments. Should products sold by these microcompanies be subject to tariffs? If a consumer in Brazil purchases an mp3 file from U.S.-based Apple iTunes, can that consumer legally resell the file? How must traditional customs models based on mass shipping via container ships be adjusted to govern products sent in smaller quantities via UPS?


Bieron’s policy lab, eBay Main Street, seeks answers to questions like these every day. The organization invites college and university faculty and students to partner on research in these areas, and Bieron encouraged the nearly 40 students in attendance to seize these opportunities to make their mark in the global trade arena.


Students took advantage of having a corporate leader like Bieron in the classroom, peppering him with questions about hot topics including:


  • How will decisions about Net Neutrality impact internet-based commerce and service-based companies like eBay?
  • What impact will Bitcoin have on global commerce – and will it survive its current tests?
  • What infrastructure is needed for developing countries to take full advantage of the technology-driven world of global trade?

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