Published: 18:10, February 29, 2024 | Updated: 18:10, February 29, 2024
Report on supporting SMEs launched at WTO conference
By ​WAM - Emirates News Agency

The 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation is underway in Abu Dhabi, on Feb 28, 2024. (PHOTO / WAM - EMIRATES NEWS AGENCY)

ABU DHABI - A new report on the importance of enabling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to participate more fully in international trade has been launched during an event at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

The report, titled Inclusive Global Trade: Enabling SMEs, was authored by the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Economy. It outlines the challenges faced by SMEs in accessing global supply chains and offers a series of policies and programs that governments around the world can introduce to overcome them.

According to the report, one of the principal obstacles to SME participation in global trade is finance. SMEs in developing nations face a combined funding gap in excess of $5.2 trillion annually, a problem that is even more acute for women-owned businesses. The report also noted that many SMEs are part of the informal economy and lack access to technology, logistics, certification programs and skilled job seekers.

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Considering formal SMEs account for 40 percent of national income and generate around seven out of 10 jobs, addressing these challenges could drive tangible growth and job creation.

This report makes a compelling case for the importance of enhancing the ability of SMEs to access the global trading system, and lays out concrete steps governments can take. I look forward to discussing it with my counterparts from across the region and around the world.

Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Trade and MC13 Chair

To tackle these and other challenges faced by SMEs, the report puts forward three proposals:

Firstly, to close the SME financing gap through a global effort whereby the international community comes together with a focus on best-practice sharing, policy and coordination, advocacy and outreach, and capacity building for officials on how to address the challenges posed by limited access to trade finance and investment capital. A specific focus would be on disseminating financial services (fintech) solutions and on the creation of guidelines and best practices for an SME-enabling business environment.

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Secondly, to support SMEs globally through an informal global business incubator network, linking and mutually supporting local, national and regional SME incubators. This network would work to improve the enabling effect of existing incubation through knowledge sharing, technology transfer, business networking, and a particular focus on improving women’s economic participation.

Thirdly, an SME Academy that would use a train-the-trainers approach to support those already working on the ground in developing countries to support SMEs through the provision of capacity building, resources, knowledge sharing, mentoring and guidance.

Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, minister of State for Foreign Trade and MC13 chair, welcomed the report. “The global economy’s future prosperity rests on the success of our entrepreneurs and small businesses and through MC13, our national economic agenda, and our partnerships abroad we are championing initiatives that enable of their growth. This report makes a compelling case for the importance of enhancing the ability of SMEs to access the global trading system, and lays out concrete steps governments can take. I look forward to discussing it with my counterparts from across the region and around the world.”

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Sultan Mohammed Al-Nuaimi, director-general of ECSSR, said, “As the global trade community gathers in Abu Dhabi for the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference to discuss how to make trade more sustainable, resilient and inclusive, this vital report from ECSSR provides a detailed analysis and important insights on how we can help SMEs throughout the world – especially in developing countries and LDCs - enhance their ability to engage in global trade and benefit from the market access opportunities and economic growth that it has the potential to generate.”

The 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization is taking place in Abu Dhabi between February 26-29. Ministerial Conferences are the highest-level decision-making forum of the WTO, which has the unique mandate to oversee and negotiate the rules of international commerce.