Good news for small businesses leading up to the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12)

Today, 95% of companies across the globe are MSMEs, accounting for 60% of the world’s total employment. However, MSMEs face a number of obstacles when seeking to participate in international trade. To address these obstacles, some WTO members, including Israel, signed a statement at the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) in December 2017 declaring their intention to create an Informal Working Group on MSMEs to explore ways in which WTO members could better support MSMEs’ participation in global trade. To this end, 97 participants worked hard to produce a package of recommendations and declarations in December 2020 to the benefit of MSMEs.

In preparation for MC12, participants of the Informal Working Group plan several outcomes, including to launch the Trade4MSMEs platform during the Business Forum that will take place on 2 December at 1pm. The aim of the platform is to provide trade-related information to small businesses seeking to reach international markets and relevant information for policy makers. The platform will contain MSME trade guides, which will provide small businesses with information about export procedures, and policymaker trade guides covering key challenges faced by MSMEs with links to relevant studies and good practices.

The group also intends to announce the winners of the “Digital Champions for Small Business” initiative at a virtual side event during MC12 on 2 December at 2.30pm. This initiative, launched by the Working Group in partnership with the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Trade Centre, is aimed at helping small businesses go digital and increase their participation in international trade. More details on when and how to access these events will be available soon on the WTO Website.

Another important milestone and outcome for the group at MC12 is to demonstrate the implementation of the 2020 MSME package of recommendations in a Database, which can be accessed via the WTO website. It brings together information that members voluntarily provide on policies related to MSMEs as a means of enhancing transparency and disseminating good practices. The six recommendations and declarations adopted by the group in 2020 includes:

  • a call for WTO members to provide information on MSME policies during their Trade Policy Reviews to enhance transparency and serve as a source of good practice
  • a call for WTO members to support the Global Trade Helpdesk, an online platform intended to bring trade and business information for companies, especially MSMEs, into a single area
  • support for full implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and a recommendation for WTO members to share good practices related to MSMEs
  • a call for promoting the inclusion of MSMEs in the development of trade regulations to minimize regulatory burden
  • support for the implementation of the 2019 Decision on the WTO Integrated Database to permit access for MSMEs to information on tariffs and other import taxes
  • a call for exchanges of good practices to help identify measures that can facilitate MSMEs’ access to finance and cross-border payments

The work does not end here however for Israel and the almost 100 other participants. New topics under discussion include digitalization issues, such as cyber-readiness, facilitating imports of low-value shipments, innovative policies for MSMEs, and issues facing rural-based MSMEs.