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We all love an underdog story––when a team manages to defy the odds and clinch the league title the following season.

In international trade, micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are the undeniable underdogs. 

Countless surveys and studies emphasise the trade barriers affecting MSMEs and point to the disproportionate share of the trade finance gap they must bear. 

Thankfully, many multilateral institutions, like the World Trade Organization (WTO), are offering their support.

At the WTO’s Public Forum in September 2022, helping MSMEs access trade and trade finance, especially during the current economic times, has been one of the top agenda items. 

To learn more about how the WTO is putting its weight behind the cause, Trade Finance Global (TFG) spoke with Uruguay’s Ministry of Foreign Relations, Mauro Bruno.

Bruno is from Uruguay’s permanent mission to the WTO and other international economic organisations and is currently assisting the coordinator of the WTO’s informal working group on MSMEs. 

“The MSME group was established in 2017 and has now grown to 95 members from all regions of the world and all levels of development,” Bruno said.

“The group works to negotiate laws and tries to be an incubator of new ideas to support businesses of every size––especially small businesses––to trade.

“Early on, the group realised that access to information is always challenging for small businesses. They don’t often even know where to begin when they want to ship their product or deliver their service across borders.  

To help address this, they set out to put together tools that MSMEs can use to help trade into international markets.

“There are many resources already available online that help small businesses to trade––businesses just need a place to find them all,” Bruno said.

“That was the inspiration of the Trade4MSMEs platform––it is comprehensive and contains all the tools needed to empower small businesses in their international trade journey.”

The origin and future of Trade4MSMEs 

In December 2021, the group formally launched the Trade4MSMEs website, which provides information to help break down some of the many barriers that smaller traders experience.   

“This platform is unique because it is both for MSMEs and policymakers,” Bruno said. 

“The information is presented in two sections with different guides and a library of resources for the two user groups.”

For MSMEs, many trading barriers stem from a lack of infrastructure, capacity, funding, commitment, and understanding of their unique needs.

This is where policy-makers are in a vital position to help.

“Policymakers can include small business chapters in free trade agreement negotiations and make sure they benefit from preferential terms included in these trade agreements,” Bruno said. 

“They can disseminate information on how MSMEs can benefit from these agreements, train small businesses, and equip them with the tools necessary to make every step of the export journey.”

The WTO working group intends to maintain the site as an always up-to-date resource that MSMEs can turn to at any time in their trading journey.

“The most important message the group wants to send is that it is going to be a living site,” Bruno said.

“It will continue to evolve and escalate. The team has a clear vision of what we want to achieve and an ambitious plan to get there. We have set up a task force to keep enhancing the platform, build on it, add crucial information, and update its content while gathering information. 

“If we identify a gap, we want to be able to gather the missing information and develop the necessary tools and training, either through the resources of the WTO or through other organisations.”

“It is essential that when someone succeeds, we share the experience and ideas and try to implement them in other countries, in other regions, and even maybe provide developing countries with technical assistance to do it right.”

With this support, MSMEs may be in a position to make their only play for international trade’s many trophies.

TFG are proud partners with Trade4MSMEs