Co-host Chloe White joins Dexter Cousins with a special Blockchain news from Dubai. Plus the headlines and interesting events in February 2023.
Blockchain news from Dubai
Dexter Cousins and Chloe White have a conversation about the latest headlines in blockchain and digital assets. Chloe is based in the Middle East and has been working on a significant project in Dubai with the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority. She explains that the Authority has launched a comprehensive set of licenses covering activities such as crypto exchanges, broker dealers, asset managers, and advisors. She also talks about the ambition and interest in blockchain and digital assets in the Middle East and how the region is seeking to capitalize on and plug the gaps of other regions. Finally, she shares her experience of working on this project and how it has scratched a deep itch in her brain.
The conversation focuses on the differences between the Middle East and the West when it comes to blockchain technology. The Middle East is seen as an optimistic environment with investors that are interested in the technology. It is also seen as a place where blockchain technology can be integrated into government systems, creating jobs and economic growth. The conversation also touches on how blockchain technology is used in combination with other technologies such as AI, VR, and AR to create a holistic approach to the potential of the technology. Overall, the Middle East is seen as a more optimistic place than the West when it comes to blockchain technology.
The token mapping consultation papers are a continuation of work from a bipartisan Senate inquiry that was led by Andrew Brad from the Liberal Party. Blockchain Australia requested that the treasury should undertake a token mapping exercise in order to improve their knowledge and capability of what was being developed in the space. The treasury has improved their capability since then, but due to staff rotation, the challenge remains in being able to follow the mapping through. The consultation paper is evolving into an exercise of taxonomy, or security token versus utility token kind of debate. There's an opportunity for people to submit their opinions before the deadline.
The four big banks in Australia have each begun to invest in blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies. NAB and CBA have both recently announced the creation of their own stablecoins. These coins are useful for web Three commerce and could eventually replace Swift, a system used for international money transfers. Chloe believes these banks are making a smart move, as stablecoins can offer capital and geopolitical efficiency. She also noted an example of crowdsource funding being used to finance a war in another part of the world, which demonstrates the power of blockchain technology.
0:00:00 "Exploring the Middle East's Growing Blockchain and Digital Asset Scene with Chloe White"
0:05:13 Exploring the Potential of Blockchain Technology in the Middle East
0:07:09 Heading: Token Mapping Consultation Papers: An Overview of the Treasury's Exercise and Its Potential Impact on the Blockchain Industry
0:11:15 Discussion on the Use of Stablecoins by Big Four Banks
0:13:25 Heading: Exploring the Use of Crowdsourced War Campaigns and Stablecoins in International Relations
0:15:54 Exploring the Impact of US Crypto Regulations on Global Innovation
0:23:13 Exploring the Role of Policymaking and Regulation in Cryptocurrency Adoption: A Discussion with Chloe Desouza
0:24:28 Exploring the Use of Bitcoin Technology for Beef Farming
Connect with Chloe white
Find out more about Genesis Block - https://genesisblock.com.au/
You can follow Chloe on Linkedin - https://www.linkedin.com/in/policyeconomist/
or Twitter - https://twitter.com/ChloeWhiteAus
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0:00:00 A: Blockchain News presented by tier one people leaders in Fintech executive search. Welcome to Blockchain News, your monthly roundup and dissection of the interesting news headlines across blockchain and digital assets. I'm Dexter Cousins and my cohost, as always, is Chloe White. Chloe was Australia's inaugural National Blockchain Roadmap lead and former advisor to government on crypto asset innovation.
0:00:35 A: She's now playing a key role in policy development and regulation globally through her advisory business, Genesis Block. Chloe joins me today from the Middle East to discuss the latest blockchain and digital asset headlines and share her insights on what's happening across the globe. Chloe, great to see you again. I feel like I haven't seen you in ages, right? We were like every couple of weeks in 2022. We seem to be catching up. And I haven't seen you in about three or four months now.
0:01:05 B: Well, I think the Singapore Fintech Festival feels like such a long way away now. It was less or just around three months ago. Time's flown really quickly.
0:01:15 A: Yeah, it has. And as I mentioned, you're kind of globetrotting at the minute. Where are you dialing in from today?
0:01:22 B: I'm dialing in from Dubai.
0:01:24 A: Dubai one of my favorite cities.
0:01:27 B: It is a really special place.
0:01:28 A: Yeah, it's cool. Well, look, we're going to kind of COVID a few things today. We'll talk about the toque and mapping exercise and ours NAB stablecoin. We're going to look at some things happening globally. But look, I'd love to start with where you're at right now in Dubai because there's been some massive stuff happening there and I wanted to talk to you about an announcement that happened in the region with Abu Dhabi and their $2 billion kind of initiative to back Web three and crypto startups.
0:02:04 B: Yeah, look, there's been so much activity happening in the Middle East on crypto and blockchain over the last year, but it's really been heating up in the last month or so. As you mentioned, there was that Abu Dhabi announcement. Around the same time, Oman also announced that they were going to be launching a crypto regime. And in the Emirate of Dubai, they've also launched a crypto regime. And this follows on from some activities around the second half of last year in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. So there was a huge amount of competition, a huge amount of ambition and interest across the Middle East and particularly in the Gulf. And I think that a lot of jurisdictions here, whether they're at the Emirate level or nationally outside the UAE, they definitely recognize that there's a lot of opportunity in the blockchain and virtual asset space. And they're seeking to position themselves to capitalize on that and perhaps also plug some of the gaps and take advantage of how slow other regions of the world have been to take action in capturing value in this space.
0:03:09 A: Now, before we I hit the record button. You share in some pretty significant news. You've been in the Middle East for, what, six, seven months now, is that right? And working on something fairly big. Can you share with us what that is?
0:03:24 B: Yeah. Thanks, Dex. So I've been advising the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority, Vara for short, which is a crypto bespoke regulator that's been launched in Dubai. This is a really exciting project because as far as I can tell, it's the first time that there's been a regulator that's been built from the ground up specifically to service the blockchain and virtual asset space in a holistic and comprehensive way.
0:03:51 B: And the exciting milestone that Vara achieved this month was the launch of a comprehensive set of licenses that cover a range of virtual asset services and activities. So it's now possible to come to Dubai and obtain a regulatory license to be a crypto exchange, a broker dealer, asset manager, advisor, and there are other license categories as well, but all the regulations and rulebooks are now live on the Vara website, Vara Ae.
0:04:22 B: So we're really excited to see what kind of feedback is coming through and the interest in response to that. But I do want to caveat all my comments by saying that I'm not on this show representing Vara or any government in any capacity, as always, just sharing my own views from my business and my observations. But it has been very meaningful to me personally to be able to play such a substantive role in the development of this regime. I think, Dex, because I did so much work in Australia over those years of thinking about how do you approach licensing and policy for this industry? It's scratched a deep itch in my brain. To have the opportunity to actually implement some of these ideas and to see them now live is something really satisfying for me to have been involved with.
0:05:13 A: We spent quite a bit of time together in Singapore and it was really clear that areas that they seen as where the technology was relevant is the Middle East different or are they kind of following a similar path?
0:05:27 B: The thing that really strikes me every time I'm in the Middle East is the focus and momentum behind the industry. Here you go to pretty much anywhere in the west or the English speaking world and there's a bit of a funk enforcement action, far ahead of policy development and a lot of pullback on investing and some negative media and things of that nature. It's quite different when you come to the Middle East. There's still a lot of interest in building, there are still investors around. So I think that it is definitely a more optimistic environment.
0:06:08 B: And I think that a similarity to some Asian markets, as you just mentioned, is a sort of focus on how you can integrate the technology into areas that are not just about speculation. It's not seen as something that is purely about speculating on new assets. So there's been some work done in dubai to sort of see how they can build blockchain into government systems. And there's a big focus on the metaverse and wanting to create jobs and economic growth around the metaverse. So it ties into digital economy and fintech strategies.
0:06:44 B: And so it's quite a holistic way of looking at the potential of the technology in combination with things like AI, VR, AR and so forth. So it's certainly a very optimistic and positive place in the world to be spending time when you see some of the negativity and pessimism in other markets.
0:07:09 A: Yeah, speaking of which, whilst you've been away, we've announced another consultation in Australia and the government's token mapping exercise, which I'm sure you knew about and was kind of announced a fair bit back, but it's now there and it's kind of in progress. Is this just another kind of delaying tactic and just kind of kicking the can further down the road?
0:07:38 B: The token mapping consultation papers are a really interesting one. It's a continuation of work that was already underway with the previous government. So the the origins of the token mapping exercise are actually from the bipartisan Senate inquiry that was led by Andrew Brad from the Liberal Party. And where token mapping came from was in the official Blockchain Australia submission to that inquiry.
0:08:02 B: We requested that the treasury should undertake a token mapping exercise in order to improve their knowledge and capability of what was actually being developed in the space. There was a lot of testimony given at those Senate hearings and I think Senator Bragg himself did have a number of lines of questioning on this in Parliament at different points in time around the lack of capability within the public service.
0:08:29 B: And to give the treasury credit, they have improved on that since that time. They've got more staff dedicated to this now than they had back then. So the capability of the Australian public service has lifted over the years. But I think that the original ambition of token mapping was to make sure that there was consultation undertaken with the industry to feed that expert information directly into the public service and secondly, to make sure that it would actually be documented in a transparent and formal way rather than the situation that you've tended to have in the past. Where because of this cultural feature of the treasury in particular, which is the key portfolio that's relevant to this aspect of the policy framework where staff tend to quite rapidly rotate in and out of roles.
0:09:22 B: When you do have staff with capability, they tend to then get rotated onto other issues as policy priorities change, which they have done regularly and rapidly over the past half a decade. So this is certainly not the first or second or third time that there have been attempts in the treasury to try to think through some of the complex policy issues here. The challenge is actually being able to follow that through without interruption or distraction. And so what seems to be happening now is the labor government has been elected, and so they're basically directing the treasury to say, well, yes, let's do the token mapping. But the way that the labor government has interpreted the purpose of the exercise is they're seeking how virtual to determine how virtual assets might be reconciled with the regulatory systems that are already in place for financial markets and consumer products.
0:10:20 B: And so I think that what's being communicated at the moment is it seems to be evolving into an exercise of taxonomy, or it's the old security token versus utility token kind of debate, in a sense. And I think that there's potentially a lost opportunity or a missed opportunity in seeing it through that lens. But I don't want to preempt any of the Treasury's conclusions. I'm actively supporting a number of submissions in response to this consultation, so I'm doing a lot of thinking on it. At the moment, there's only about another bit more than a week until submission deadline, so anybody who's interested in this issue is able to go and make a submission. You don't need to be someone of a special status.
0:11:11 B: It's open to the public, so it's an opportunity.
0:11:15 A: Djen is welcome.
0:11:19 B: Yeah.
0:11:20 A: NAB also announced stablecoin. So now we got two of the four big four banks who've gone down this path. I guess. First of all, my question to you, Chloe, is what is the play here?
0:11:40 B: Yeah, great question. It's been interesting to see. CBA has gone down the route of retail trading speculation, perhaps. And then we have these other two banks who've created a very similar stablecoin product and Westpac in the corner still trying to figure out what it wants to do and be in this world. And so I think the fact that stablecoins have been the product of choice for two of the four big banks is meaningful.
0:12:10 B: Stablecoins are popular in web Three for the same reason why Fiat is popular in the physical world. It's just very practical. It's really useful to have an already accepted unit of account to underpin a lot of your Internet native commerce. So I do think that it's a smart play and something that the big four banks should be investing in terms of their capability and looking at the use cases.
0:12:35 A: And do you think kind of banks creating their own stable coins will ultimately see the end of Swift?
0:12:43 B: Definitely. There's going to be a lot of not only capital efficiency reasons, but geopolitical reasons why different dictions might be looking at the potential of some of this technology to maybe not be a replacement for Swift, but to be an alternative in the foreseeable future for particular use cases. And this technology is already being used in such interesting ways. When you look at geopolitical issues, something that really struck me last year was there was the first example that I had seen of a war in one part of the world that had been funded via crowdsource funding in real time from people around the globe.
0:13:25 B: In the context of the Ukraine, Dow, and how rapidly they were able to deploy that capital towards military expenses, it was a crowdsourced war campaign. So there's all kinds of concerns, I think as well about sanctions and international relations and how this technology could be used by nation states as well as by institutions and retail. So we're certainly starting to see that global institutions are starting to get the hang of this space. It's taking them a while to get comfortable. I mean, when we look at the kind of stable coin that NAB is putting out, it's not like USDC or Tether. It's not an open permissionless composable asset.
0:14:19 B: It's essentially a tokenized deposit. So it's not going to have all of the utility and attraction of one of those other tokens that I mentioned. But it's certainly encouraging, I think, to see that they are looking at some of those capital efficiency motivations, the atomic settlement or T Zero being the main focus for NAB, but whether they will remain as just tokenized deposits, I think something interesting to think about for the future. Because when we look at the free floating pools of stablecoins that are being issued by technology companies rather than ADIs, that has obviously got a lot more use cases than the Adi sort of style issue stablecoins that we're seeing coming up. So the banks still have to navigate a lot of regulatory restrictions in that case. And so that's going to limit, I think, where they try to compete in terms of utility.
0:15:16 A: Paradoxes of the human race is that we tend to do our greatest bits of innovate periods of innovation during wars. And you talk there about Ukraine and Russia announced, I think, just this last few days that they're going to be launching their digital ruble in, I think, April of this year. What kind of pressure do you think that is going to put on the US. Because I think you kind of alluded to this earlier. They seem to be very much just it's almost like a McCarthy witch hunt but on people with crypto and kind of putting everybody in jail.
0:15:54 A: Do you think that this kind of play now might get them to kind of start to refocus and focus on actually the opportunity? And if you think back to, well, we weren't born, but in the 60s, you had the space race, you had the Cold War, and that kind of led to a lot of innovation happening and certainly the US. Was keen to be seen to be outdoing. Russia, do you think this news might get them to kind of start refocus and on actually partaking and being part of this ecosystem rather than kind of, I guess, seem to be cutting themselves off from it?
0:16:34 B: The US. Is already doing similar kinds of research and experimentation, but that's not getting as much press attention as the enforcement actions that they've been taking. And so I think there's an interesting question that the US would want to ask itself around. When is it in its interest and not in its interest to be the world's reserve currency and how does that translate through into payment systems and blockchain?
0:16:59 B: There are pros and cons to having that unique position among world currencies. But I think that the US. Throughout its history has demonstrated that it does enjoy the privilege of being the world's reserve currency and unit of account. And so to the extent that that does feed into its motivations to want to make more advancements on CBDCs, for example, and payment rails that it controls, then it will continue to feed through into the research and experimentation that's underway.
0:17:30 B: But that, I think, has been, like in many jurisdictions, more of a slow burn happening behind the scenes and then most of the attention. What we see reported on tends to be more focused on how to basically regulate the industries that have popped up around the products and services that are offered to the retail market.
0:17:51 A: There was an article that I read the other day, and I tend not to read any articles where it's the Winklevoss twins being interviewed, but this one kind of really caught my eye. And the reason why was the headline was crypto's next Bull Run will start in Asia. Clearly the Winklevoss twins weren't at Singapore Fintech Festival. What the mood was there. Having said that, though, I think both you and I and pretty much everybody that was there, could see possibly that the strongest region for the most solid use case as a region for peer to peer payments, tokenization and cryptocurrencies is Southeast Asia.
0:18:38 A: Given that, I guess, one, they've got a high kind of penetration of smartphones, but there's a lot of people that don't have access to banking services. It's not actually the infrastructure, legacy infrastructure that you have here in Australia, the US. Europe, for example. What are your thoughts on kind of Asia being the place where this kind of next wave of I don't want to use the term baldron, but this next kind of wave of innovation really kicks off.
0:19:12 B: I think it's quite a defensible position to say that a lot of the Asian region feels like a dam that's about to burst. And the reason that I say that is what I've observed is a lot of jurisdictions that tend to crack down the hardest on crypto are the jurisdictions where there's huge demand and popularity of these products and services. And so what that says to me is there is all of this pent up energy and product and investment that will be unleashed as soon as there's some kind of regulatory breakthrough. And not only is that the case in some of those regions that you just mentioned, but even looking at India, for example, indians are some of the world's biggest adopters of DFI, for example.
0:20:03 B: And that's just an enormous population with a huge amount of potential. Even in Africa, there's been a huge amount of engagement and interest in this space in Nigeria, where the government's been very concerned about regulation and wanting to control the growth of the market there. So once these governments have had an opportunity to get their head around some of the policy options and do a little bit of regulatory implementation, they'll be able to slowly allow things to open up a little bit and then it's going to open the floodgates.
0:20:39 B: So Hong Kong is a really interesting one to watch at the moment. They started to get a little bit more bullish in the second half of last year and they've made some more progress into this year as well. And so that's potentially a leading indicator of Chinese market activity. So from China to India to Africa, there's still so much more adoption to come online and I think a lot of the regulatory progress is going to unlock that opportunity.
0:21:10 B: I think that having those regulatory systems in place is not necessarily a requirement for the next bull run to kick off because oftentimes as well, what we observe is that consumer activity comes before regulation and so regulation tends to be a lagging indicator of adoption and activity.
0:21:32 A: Do you think given the recent events and what happened last year, that might change just because of how many consumers have been burned? And do you think we might need to now see regulatory measures come in place for people to feel safe to come back back in to the space?
0:21:53 B: I think it depends on the philosophy and attitudes of the particular jurisdiction. And also I think it comes down to the difference between the mindset of policymakers versus regulators. In some jurisdictions, policymaking and regulation will happen within the one entity or department or body, but in a country like the US or Australia, for example, the way that policymakers might approach things is not always united and it's not always the way in which regulators implement. And so I think there has been a lot of criticism heaped at the SEC in particular for this policy by enforcement kind of activity that they've been undertaking, where they seem to be wanting to punish their local actors for some of the mishaps that we've seen in the Bahamas and further abroad. So there certainly is, I guess, a bit of separation there. And so that's where I think we need policy to be moving more quickly, we need more resources than investment in policy because without policy, regulators don't have any other guidance and so they will just act according to the old laws and the old policies and ways of doing things.
0:23:13 A: So I mentioned at the beginning, it's been a while since we caught up and indeed the last time that we did catch up well, no, it wasn't, was actually the blockies. But prior to that was when we recorded the very first episode of blockchain chatter. And I'm now five episodes into that. And what's been really cool, Chloe, is just seeing the real world use cases for the technology and there's just more the more you look, the more that you can see them.
0:23:43 A: I read a really interesting article this week which was actually on ABC news site, and it was kind of disparaging in its tone, and it was about beef farmers and bitcoin, and it was the kind of usual thing around them being a cult and decentralized and all this stuff. But what really struck me about it was when you kind of cut through the cynicism in it, it actually seemed to me to be a perfect use case for bitcoin. I know I sent the article across to you. Did you get a chance to look at that? And what are your kind of thoughts on things like farming, beef farming, et cetera, as being the right type of use case for this technology?
0:24:28 B: Yeah, I did have a skim at that article, and it really reminded me of a lot of people that I have met in the bitcoin community who there is a meme, a strong meme in the bitcoin hardcore community around beef and around self sovereignty and being able to trade independently of third parties. And a lot of crypto does have that kind of libertarian cypherpunk origin. And I think that that still permeates throughout a lot of the industry and the community now. And I think it's important to understand that context when looking at the industry.
0:25:06 B: I think one thing that's interesting though about the changes in the Bitcoin community over time, there obviously I think is still that very hardcore group of core Bitcoin true believers who will always kind of prioritize use cases around. Things that enhance local communities, local trade, self sovereignty as being something that is really motivating for them and promoting Bitcoin as a future money.
0:25:37 B: Something that will become will one day come to be seen as money in its own right. But the bitcoin community and the bitcoin use cases are quite broad and becoming broader. And so one thing that's been an interesting development in the past couple of months has been the emergence of ordinals. And I find this interesting for two reasons. One is because I think it's brought people's attention to the fact that you can have NFTs in the bitcoin ecosystem and to people in our positioning to say, okay, well, how does this work and how do I be early to this ecosystem? As we've seen the enormous opportunities and success that came to a lot of people who were early in NFTs elsewhere in the blockchain industry.
0:26:22 B: So that's being looked at. But I think the fact that a lot of the influencers who are out there participating in the Bitcoin ordinal NFT project are people who are kind of seen as thought leaders and industry leaders and investors. But they're a different kind of person to the traditional bitcoin maximalist who promotes some more libertarian ideas that would be seen as being quite fringe and that the ABC might want to make fun of. And so it's a moderate kind of bitcoiner who's saying, this is where the technology is going or has the potential to go.
0:27:02 B: And we have seen an increase in demand for block space on the blockchain since ordinals started to become talked about more online in the past couple of months, so I think that's going to be a really interesting one to work.
0:27:14 A: Cool. Now, as we talked about earlier, you have an insane amount of travel planned in 2023. We're going to be doing this news roundup monthly. So where will you be dialing in from next month?
0:27:30 B: Chloe next time we catch up, I'm going to be in Amsterdam attending a few days of workshops on stablecoins and risks around stablecoins, so I'm really looking forward to that. I think it's going to be quite a rich trip for me, intellectually rich in what respect? I'm very passionate about all things stablecoins, so I'm particularly excited for these workshops.
0:27:59 A: Awesome. And how can people get in touch with or follow you?
0:28:05 B: Chloe I'm on Twitter as Chloewhite Oz, A-U-S and I'm on LinkedIn and I think I'm fairly easy to Google these days, so feel free to reach out through any of those channels.
0:28:20 A: Chloe, it's been great to catch up with you again. Thanks for joining me and sharing the insights.
0:28:24 B: It's a pleasure.
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