Recognizing the importance of MSME trade inclusion, the WTO provides a number of different resources to support trade policymakers and traders.
Aid for Trade – The WTO-led Aid for Trade (A4T) initiative has referred to MSME needs and issues on various occasions. The 2018-19 Work Programme for Aid for Trade looked into how trade could contribute to economic diversification, empowerment, and poverty reduction through the effective participation of MSMEs, women, and youth. The programme also reviewed how A4T addresses trade-related infrastructure constraints, including for MSMEs. The work programme for 2020-22 stressed the importance of MSME-dominated sectors in boosting economic development.
The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) helps least developed country governments address constraints related to competitiveness, growth potential, and supply chain weaknesses, including specific constraints faced by MSMEs. The EIF is a partnership bringing together various countries, donors, and partner agencies.
ePing, a joint project by the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the WTO, and the International Trade Centre (ITC), shares information on product requirements. Through the site, users are able to search sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and technical barriers to trade (TBT), receive alerts, and collaborate.
The WTO’s Government Procurement Committee launched a work programme on MSMEs in 2012 to facilitate MSME participation in government procurement projects and to maximize their potential for growth. Increasing MSMEs’ participation in government procurement also ensures a more competitive bidding process, thus achieving better value for money in government purchases.
The Informal Working Group on MSMEs was launched at the WTO’s Eleventh Ministerial Conference in December 2017. The Group aims to identify and address obstacles to MSME participation in international trade. It currently consists of 91 WTO members and is open to all members. Documents issued by the Group are available on WTO Docs Online and are searchable as “INF/MSME/*”.
The Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is devoted to the implementation of the WTO’s intellectual property rules. In this context, WTO Members also exchange information about their policies aimed at supporting MSMEs’ creativity, inventiveness, and investments in research and technology. Members have recognized the particular significance of intellectual property rights for small businesses, whose intellectual capital is often their main asset. The MSME-related policies presented in that context include financial assistance schemes, efforts at streamlining application procedures, and enhanced transparency of intellectual property rules.
The Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) is a partnership that helps governments improve the implementation of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, among other responsibilities. These efforts help increase trading opportunities for MSMEs.
To improve the inclusiveness of trade, some WTO Members have also been exploring how to support women’s economic empowerment through trade. This work is closely linked to the work on trade and MSMEs, with more information available at the following link.
Finally, together with the ITC and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the WTO is one of the agencies behind the Global Trade Helpdesk.