Fostering the Participation of MSMEs in Regional and Global Markets

Geneva – Under the Theme “Trade Works”, the working session “Fostering the Participation of MSMEs in Regional and Global Markets” organized by the Philippine Mission to the WTO drew interests from the participations of the public forum event. There are more than 80 working sessions and at least 10 sessions all happening at the same time, but the session on MSMEs was able to stimulate a healthy debate on why and how global cooperation would be critical in making trade work for MSMEs.

The Public Forum is the WTO’s largest annual outreach event, which provides a platform for participants to discuss the latest developments in world trade and to propose ways of enhancing the multilateral trading system. The event regularly attracts over 1,500 representatives from civil society, academia, business, the media, governments, parliamentarians and inter-governmental organizations.

The public forum with its wide participation and representation is the right platform for MSMEs interests to be heard. The working session brought together Philippines Trade Minister Gregory Domingo, International Trade Center (ITC) Executive Director Ms. Arancha Gonzalez, Senior Director for Trade and Competitiveness of the World Bank Group Ms. Anabel Gonzalez, Deputy Director General of UNCTAD Mr. Joakim Reiter, and Deputy Director General of the WTO Mr. Ziaozhun Yi. The session was moderated by Philippine Mission to the WTO Permanent Representative Ambassador Esteban Conejos, Jr.

In setting the tone of the session, Secretary Domingo has emphasized that economic development must be equitable and inclusive, and everyone has a role to play in supporting the realization of this objective. If we are to make it inclusive, we would have to address the lack of opportunity for MSMEs to participate in global trade. There are many things that can be done but the 1st step is for us to change the mindset and bring interest of MSMEs at the forefront of trade policy making.

Ms. Anabel Gonzalez of the WB Group drew participants’ attention that research has particularly focused on SMEs, but not on Micro. Therefore, we should have more conversations on micro enterprises and need to build data and evidence for this sector.

Ms. Arancha Gonzalez highlighted that MSMEs is not only in the development agenda but the broader trade agenda. ITC provides support to the WTO and UNCTAD’s regulatory, research and policy strategies, focusing on implementing and delivering practical TRTA projects. ITC’s latest research “Connect, Compete, Change” provides insights on what could be done for MSEs to contribute more to trade.

Mr. Reiter of UNCTAD focused on the importance of linking sustainable growth and the WTO. A sense of urgency is needed and MSME is the key to unlock the job and growth crisis. Unfortunately, WTO is seen as a rich man’s club but what is not usually apparent is that the WTO is about the rule of law and the rule of law helps the weak and the vulnerable.

Mr. Yi of the WTO also noted that data available is on SMEs and they are very vulnerable to globalized challenges. The WTO has mechanisms in place in confronting such challenges such as the nature of the rules-based system, lowering of barriers and keeping protectionism at bay, transparency, new business opportunities created by the TFA, e-commerce, NTMs and trade disputes, and Aid-for-Trade.Notwithstanding, more could be done in the areas of market access, NTMS, and trade facilitation. (END)