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Source: World Trade Organisation

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 includes 90 WTO members.

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 is the fruition of extensive work by the proponents, who put forward proposals in these areas during the past year and a half, under the leadership of the Coordinator, Ambassador José Luís Cancela (Uruguay).

The package follows on the Group’s declaration made 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. 

The Group plans to present the package of recommendations and declarations to the whole membership at the end of the year. All WTO members are invited to support the package. 

“In these times of crisis, MSMEs need our help more than ever. Now is the time to support them and be alongside them. This package is an opportunity to show that we care about our MSMEs and are committed to help them navigate these difficult times,” said Ambassador Cancela.

Below is the list of recommendations and declarations that compose the package:

  1. Recommendation on the collection of MSME-related information in WTO Trade Policy Reviews

The recommendation is for members to provide, on a voluntary basis, a list of MSME-related information during their Trade Policy Review, to the extent it is readily available. Sharing information on policies related to MSMEs can be an important tool to help identify good practices to address the challenges faced by MSMEs when participating in international trade. The Group further recommends that the WTO Secretariat establish and maintain a database of the information provided by members.

  1. Declaration on access to information

In this declaration, members of the Group call on all WTO members to contribute to the success and the prompt operationalization of the Global Trade Helpdesk and agree to voluntarily provide to the WTO Secretariat updated and complete information that will be fed into the Global Trade Helpdesk, a tool that provides market intelligence including information on tariffs and regulatory information.

  1. Recommendation on trade facilitation for MSMEs

The Group calls for the full implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the exchange of TFA implementation experiences involving MSMEs. The Group recommends that MSMEs are involved when conducting consultations in accordance with the TFA and invites WTO members, the WTO Secretariat and donor organizations to work together in order to design and provide MSME-related capacity building and technical assistance. The recommendation also emphasizes the importance of the effective application of trade facilitation disciplines that contribute to reducing transit times and costs.

  1. Recommendation on promoting MSME inclusion in regulatory development

WTO agreements include rules on consultations with stakeholders in the process of regulatory development, but do not explicitly refer to MSMEs. In this context, the members of the Informal Working Group on MSMEs put forward a recommendation that encourages WTO members to promote the consideration of the specific needs of MSMEs in domestic regulatory development with respect to issues covered by the WTO agreements.

  1. Recommendation on MSMEs and the WTO Integrated Database

The Group recommends that all WTO members update their information in the WTO Integrated Database. This will ensure MSMEs have access to reliable and comprehensive data on tariffs and other market access data.

  1. Recommendation/Declaration on MSMEs’ access to finance and cross-border payments

One of the major obstacles to MSMEs’ participation in international trade are the difficulties they face in accessing finance, and challenges associated with cross-border payments. The members of the Group on MSMEs call on WTO members to actively engage in relevant fora to identify concrete measures that can facilitate addressing these challenges and to promote them through capacity-building and information sharing. The Declaration welcomes international initiatives aimed at facilitating a global legal identification (legal entity identifiers) system for companies and invites WTO members to cooperate in such initiatives.

“Legal entity identifiers” (LEI) is a unique system of 20 digits that identifies companies, government or entities that are involved in financial transactions. It is used to give information about “who is who” and “who owns what” in the financial markets. LEI’s primary use is to help financial institutions find due diligence information about their customers, including small businesses, in a transparent and quick way.

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