On the morning of April 28, Liaoning University’s Song Zexing Overseas High-End Academic Lecture Series (First Lecture) was held in the academic hall of the Administrative Building on the Puhe Campus. Professor Daniel Trefler, a well-known economist from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, was invited to give an academic report entitled “Reforming World Trade Rules in the Age of AI”. Professor Yu Miaojie (Deputy to the 14th National People’s Congress, Member of the Standing Committee of the 14th Liaoning Provincial People’s Congress, Deputy Secretary of the CPC Committee, and President of Liaoning University) attended the report and delivered a welcome speech. The lecture was hosted by Professor Ma Xiangjun, Deputy Dean of Research Institute of Chinese Economy at Liaoning University.
Prof. Trefler provided a fresh perspective on the trade friction between China and the United States from the topical angles of “trustworthy products”, “intellectual property rights”, and “WTO reform”. He put forward seven constructive proposals, including the establishment of a subsidy database. Following the presentation, Prof. Trefler engaged in a warm and interactive discussion with students, offering patient and detailed answers to their questions. The speech was broad in scope, full of insightful ideas and closely aligned with realistic applications. Prof. Trefler’s speech provides significant guidance for expanding the global academic horizons of LNU’s students and providing fresh research ideas.
At the end of the meeting, Prof. Yu Miaojie presented Prof. Trefler with a letter of appointment as a tenured emeritus professor of Liaoning University and a memorial plaque for the Song Zexing Overseas High-End Academic Lecture Series. A student representative from the School of Finance and Trade presented flowers in honor of Prof. Trefler.
In the afternoon, Prof. Trefler attended the Overseas Reputable Scholars Lecture Series at Liaoning University. He shared his research results under a talk entitled “WeChat with BERT: AI’s Impact on International Trade in Digital Services”. The conference was hosted by Prof. Yan Ping from the Research Institute of Chinese Economy at Liaoning University.
As a researcher, Prof. Trefler’s primary focus is on international trade in mobile applications, which is rapidly growing, has a large volume of trade, and is profoundly shaped by artificial intelligence (AI) technology. His research applies the large-language model BERT, which is a familiar model in the introduction of mobile applications produced by companies, and engages in dialogue with the AI patent abstracts filed by each company in order to determine the correlation between the company’s mobile applications and its AI patents. This method innovatively measures the degree of embedding of AI in mobile applications, with Prof. Trefler’s research demonstrating that the use of AI: (1) increases foreign users of mobile applications, thereby promoting international trade; (2) increases the number of new mobile applications by 13% and eliminates 30% of old applications; and (3) increases the welfare benefits of international trade by 21% through improving existing applications and developing new ones. Prof. Trefler’s paper on his study establishes a general equilibrium trade model, using empirical analysis of 36,334 application data from 2016 to 2020, and arrives at a similar conclusion to the Heckscher-Ohlin Model: when companies are in AI research-intensive countries, and the applications themselves belong to AI-intensive categories (such as social networks), companies will use more AI to develop applications.
The atmosphere of the lecture was lively, with attending students and teachers raising questions and presenting an active exchange of ideas. After the event, young faculty members and PhD students from the School of Economics had a deep discussion with Prof. Trefler about how to conduct research and plan an academic career.
The lecture and academic seminar were hosted by the Faculty of Economics and organized by the Research Institute of Chinese Economy and International Exchanges Department at LNU. More than 600 faculty and student representatives, including leaders of the Faculty of Economics, participated in the event.
Introduction to Prof. Daniel Trefler
Prof. Daniel Trefler is from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He is the Chair in Competitiveness and Prosperity Research at the Canada Institute for Advanced Research, a Senior Fellow at the CD Howe Institute, an advisor for the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, a research fellow at the US National Bureau of Economic Research, a research fellow at the European Centre for Policy Research, and a research fellow at the International Growth Centre in the UK. As one of the most well-known economists in Canada, Prof. Trefler has made pioneering contributions to research in the field of international trade, which have been widely applied in the development and implementation of trade agreements. His research has helped trade agreements promote productivity, innovation, and investment while reducing harm to workers and disadvantaged communities. Prof. Trefler has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Killam Prize in 2016 (the top prize in Canada); the highest honor in the field of international economics as the 2011 Ohlin Lecturer; the Canadian Bank Research Foundation Award; and all three major awards from the Canadian Economics Association (the Harry Johnson Prize, the John Rae Prize, and the Innis Lecture), among other achievements.
Prof. Trefler has long served as the editor of Journal of International Economics, a top international journal in its field, as well as a member of the editorial board for Journal of Economic Literature, sponsored by the American Economic Association. In recent years, as a government advisor for Global Affairs Canada, Prof. Trefler has been deeply involved in Canada’s foreign direct investment policy and the development of the Canada-European Union Free Trade Agreement. He has published dozens of articles in top economics journals, including American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, and Quarterly Journal of Economics, and has authored numerous economics textbooks. His work has been widely cited by the Nobel Committee, the World Trade Organization, and top international media outlets such as The New York Times, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist, where he has been frequently interviewed. Prof. Trefler received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto, his master’s degree from the University of Cambridge, and his PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles. He previously served as a visiting professor at Harvard University and the University of Chicago.