The Informal Working Group on Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) officially adopted at its meeting on 11 December a package of six recommendations and declarations aimed at addressing challenges smaller businesses face when they trade internationally. The package will be presented to all WTO members at a meeting of Heads of Delegation on 14 December.
Ambassador José Luís Cancela (Uruguay), the Coordinator of the Group, noted that MSMEs often struggle to participate in international trade and have been hit very hard by the current pandemic. He added that by endorsing this package, the Group signals that it stands ready to help them.
Amb. Cancela said:
“Congratulations! I am happy to see that our hard work over the last three years has paid off. Today is an important day both for the WTO and for MSMEs. For the WTO, as it is the first outcome of a joint statement initiative. This package is proof that we can deliver.”
Deputy Director-General Yi Xiaozhun addressed the group and congratulated members on their dedication and active engagement and for delivering such a timely package. He stressed that the package is important for the WTO as it shows that members are willing to compromise and work together to accomplish their goals.
Yi Xiaozhun said:
“We can’t stop here though. The WTO is a multilateral organization and MSMEs are a global issue. My hope is that this group continues to grow and becomes multilateral in the not too distant future.”
During the meeting, Ukraine and Mauritius announced that they officially support the package. In addition, Ukraine informed members of its decision to join the Group, bringing the total number of participants to 91 WTO members.
The Group aims to identify and address obstacles to MSMEs’ participation in international trade and was launched at the WTO’s Eleventh Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in December 2017. The Group is open to the whole WTO membership and aims to become multilateral.
The package includes a set of voluntary and non-binding recommendations covering areas such as transparency and information sharing on MSMEs, trade facilitation, access to finance and cross-border payments, access to market information and inclusion of MSMEs in regulatory developments. It follows on from the Group’s declaration at Buenos Aires in 2017, in which they committed to address obstacles that represent a significant burden for MSMEs interested in participating in international trade.
Below is the list of recommendations and declarations that compose the package:
MSME-related information in WTO Trade Policy Reviews – The recommendation calls on WTO members to provide, on a voluntary basis, information on policies related to MSMEs during their WTO Trade Policy Reviews to enhance transparency and to be a source of good practices (e.g., number of MSMEs in the economy and their share in international trade or programmes that support MSMEs to trade).
Access to information – Members are encouraged to support the Global Trade Helpdesk, a tool led by the International Trade Centre, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the WTO to help MSMEs access market intelligence, including on tariffs and regulations.
Trade facilitation for MSMEs – Burdensome customs procedures are especially hard on MSMEs. The Group is calling on WTO members to fully implement the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, exchange experiences to identify and promote good practices that can help MSMEs, and consider adopting digital customs procedures to ease these difficulties.
Promoting MSME inclusion in regulatory development – New trade regulations can have unintended consequences for businesses, especially for MSMEs. Members are encouraged to analyse potential impacts for smaller businesses and consult with MSMEs before implementing new trade regulations.
Access to finance and cross-border payments – Access to finance and cross-border payments are major challenges for the engagement of MSMEs in trade. The Group calls on members to share best practices with a view to identifying concrete measures.