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Thursday, 05 December 2013

Bali WTO conference: 'opportunity' to boost trade with developing countries' SMEs

Improving the competitiveness of SMEs in developing countries matters to everyone, especially Europe, argues Arancha González. A deal on trade facilitation at the upcoming ninth WTO ministerial conference in Bali, may hang in the balance but a successful outcome is still possible, preferred and much needed. An improved trade-facilitation framework is crucial for all countries; particularly for developing countries and emerging economies, but also for their European trading partners.
Using public funds to cultivate entrepreneurship and improve the competitiveness of SMEs is not about charity. It makes economic sense for all concerned. Helping to unlock the potential of businesses in developing countries to export more and higher-quality goods and services, is a win for the importers, consumers and investors of these exports whether they be in the north or the south.
Of course, an increase in exports is also a win for developing country SMEs and the thousands of men and women they help lift out of poverty. Trade within the SME sector fuels economic growth and development, reduces poverty, and creates jobs – this is the reality for the hundreds of developing countries and economies in transition in which the International Trade Centre (ITC) works.
This role of SMEs is particularly important as the world seeks solutions to cater for its growing workforce. It is through increased trade that we can sustain livelihoods for a growing global population and generate the required economic opportunities and conditions for a more peaceful world.
Interestingly, SMEs are also more than employment generators. They are innovation incubators and entrepreneurial laboratories. If channelled correctly, they can also be key platforms for involving more women in global trade. This has been the case in Europe, North America, and to some extent in Asia.
Our experience is that for SMEs in developing countries to reach this level of performance, they need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to improve the quality of their goods and services. They also need to be introduced to potential trading partners around the world - including in Europe - through B2B platforms and to be supported by business-friendly policies.
However, it will take more than good intentions and lessons learned to tap the full potential of trade as a driver of global economic growth. Policymakers and other key stakeholders still have an opportunity to make commitments which would help to boost SME competitiveness in both the developed and developing world. A positive outcome in Bali would make things easier.
Beyond Bali, it would also be useful in helping countries, within the Post-2015 development agenda, to better articulate the crucial role that trade and SME competitiveness play in anchoring development. By securing a positive outcome in Bali and ensuring that the role of trade – and particularly that of SMEs – is firmly embedded into the post-2015 development agenda, European policymakers could help ensure that more people in developing countries are lifted out of poverty. The world cannot afford to let a generation of women and youth go without decent employment and livelihoods. Investing in SME competitiveness is a key ingredient towards this goal, Arancha González, concludes.

Source: Theparliament.com

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