ITC Executive Director remarks “Small Business, Big Impact” (en)
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
I am delighted to welcome you to ITC today, to celebrate the first ever International Day for Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.
I thank UNOG Director General Michael Møller; H.E. Héctor Casanueva, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Chile to the WTO and Coordinator of the Friends of MSMEs; ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao, as well as Catherine Fiankan-Bokonga, Editor of Klvin Magazine for joining us on this special day.
Special welcome of course to our guest stars: Cattleya Romero-Faude from the Phillipines who is the founder & owner of the Swiss company Sagàna; Brian Pallas, CEO & founder of Opportunity Network based in the USA; Omar Bawa, founder of Goodwall in Switzerland; and Francisco Villalpando, founder of Tequila Villalpando, Mexico. Today is your day and we are honoured that you have chosen to celebrate it, here in Geneva, with us.
MSMEs play a major role in the economy. Globally speaking, MSMEs account for over 95% of all enterprises, employ 70% of the global workforce and contribute to more than 50% of the world’s GDP. In emerging markets, SMEs generate most formal jobs, and create four out of every five new positions.
MSMEs will be the driving force if our economies are to create the 600 million jobs needed in the next 15 years to absorb the growing global workforce and generate decent and sustainable incomes for all.
This is the reason why the UN General Assembly has decided to designate 27 June as a day each year to celebrate micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
It is a way to raise awareness on the crucial role MSMEs play in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
And I want to recognize the role of the Government of Argentina under the able leadership of Minister Francisco Cabrera; the 54 UN member states who worked alongside Argentina; as well as the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) in ensuring that the UN resolution declaring 27 June International MSME day was passed.
The International Trade Centre, whose mandate is to improve the international competitiveness of small businesses from developing countries, is pleased to help coordinate the United Nations’ celebration of these collectively powerful engines for sustainable and inclusive growth.
Our ambition today is to create a platform for private sector, governments, international organizations, civil society, youth and women to discuss the common challenges facing MSMEs and identify innovative ways of overcoming them.
Indeed, one key feature of the latest World Trade Report is that SMEs’ underperform big firms in terms of export value. In developed countries, SMEs account for over a third of total exports. In developing countries, they contribute to only 1% of export services sales, and 8% in the manufacturing sector.
Hence, a special focus should be on how to enhance MSMEs’ potential and help them reach international markets, generate high export value, create more jobs and induce sustainable and inclusive growth.
Some of the biggest challenges we shall address are shared by most MSMEs, whether they are in developed nations, transition economies, or low-income countries. This is why it is so important that the WTO looks into how the rules of global trade can be shaped to help create a better business environment for MSMEs. I hope that the upcoming WTO Ministerial Meeting in Buenos Aires in December will represent a step in that direction.
Our efforts should be concentrated on initiatives to upgrade the international competitiveness of MSMEs. This includes better access to production infrastructure and information, simplifying export procedures, adopting flexible regulations, facilitating access to finance, and public procurement.
One priority should be to lower non-tariff barriers to trade, which weigh disproportionately on smaller companies. ITC’s NTM Survey (2015) of businesses reveals that one MSME out of two encounters non-tariff measures. As key stakeholders, we should guarantee effective implementation of trade agreements in order to help MSMEs seize opportunities and reduce trade costs.
A special focus must also be on supporting women-owned MSMEs. Women’s economic empowerment is not just a moral imperative; it is a social and economic one. And, it is closely linked to the competitiveness of small businesses. Just last week, ITC co-hosted the first International Forum on Women and Trade where world leaders in international trade policy and corporate CEOs agreed that MSME competitiveness and the economic empowerment of women were two sides of the same coin. Closing the gender digital divide through targeted training and skills building; creating accessible market information and business contact networks for women on business; as well as taking steps to open up public procurement contracts to women entrepreneurs were just a few key actions discussed.
Finally yet importantly, we should emphasize the importance of using technology to better connect MSMEs to international markets.
Though MSMEs are small business, they have a big impact. It is up to us to continue to help them increase their competitiveness, creation of sustainable jobs and their poverty-reducing role. We have to help them join the global marketplace and the global dialogue to realise their potential as actors of change.
Before closing, let me address special thanks to Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services and the Canton of Geneva for collaborating with the United Nations for this event and for promoting better insertion of MSMEs in the multilateral trading system.
Thank you for your attention.