Statement by the Executive Director at the World TPO Network Conference and Awards 2016

24 November 2016
ITC News
Statement by ITC Executive Director Arancha González at the World TPO Network Conference and Awards 2016
Marrakech - 24 November 2016

Your Excellencies,
Honourable guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Welcome to this 2016 TPO Network World Conference and Awards!

I would like to thank his Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco for his gracious patronage of this event.

To our host Maroc Exports I thank you for the excellent partnership

Africa is a very appropriate location for this edition of the TPO Network World Conference. And to bring us all together in Morocco, which continues to be a dynamic and innovative economy, is even more suitable. The theme of this conference- ‘Moving Forward: the Future of Trade and Investment Promotion’ - was not an accidental choice. We wanted a theme that was visual and vibrant and reflect what we all now know to be true about this continent: it is the growth and investment pole of the future.

Africa has many riches. It’s young and growing population provides opportunities not only as new markets but also as a source of innovation and technology. Throughout my travels on the continent, and especially here in Morocco, I have seen this innovation. From start-ups in the IT field in Kenya, to solar energy in Morocco to the use of traditional knowledge and techniques in the textile industry in Burkina Faso, and 100% chemical free leather tanning in Ethiopia, I have seen the growth of ideas being translated into small industry on the ground.

And not just in Africa. Over these two days you will hear about branding culinary tastes as a form of investment policy from St. Lucia, about harnessing academia and trade promotion to develop SMEs in Brazil, and about embracing the digital transformation in the way the TIPO operates and delivers services to clients in Switzerland.

I must also speak about Maroc Export which has been a supporter and broker for Moroccan businesses, helping them break into and thrive in new markets and value chains. The Global TPO Network recognised these successes two years ago, when it awarded Maroc Export this conference. Already a top performer, Maroc Export has demonstrated a real commitment to constant learning and improvement: so much so that in ITC’s recent benchmarking exercise, it doubled its score from three years before, making it one of the two top performers in Africa. This conference is about learning from each other – and we all have a lot to learn from Maroc Export!

Ladies and gentlemen, Trade and Investment Promotion Organizations are crucial partners on the ground in ITC’s work to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to internationalise. You are central to sustaining and multiplying the impact of trade-related technical assistance. I see you as an electrical adaptor, allowing your SMEs to connect and to function with confidence in which ever location they want to expand into.

While the biggest companies can go it alone, SMEs, the largest source of untapped inclusive growth, need TIPOs to access information and contacts and reduce risk perceptions in foreign markets. ITC has worked with TIPOs around the world for over 50 years. We fully understand the complex environments in which you operate. That is why we offer tailored solutions to you to quantify and upgrade your managerial, operational and service delivery capacities. But this is not done in isolation. Our product is only as good as you say it is. Your feedback and experience sharing is what allows ITC itself to up the ante on its offerings to you and your SMEs every year.

We know TIPO performance matters. And we know that investing in TIPOs pays handsome dividends: research we published this year showed that each additional dollar invested in Trade and Investment Promotion Organizations generates USD 87 additional dollars of exports and USD 384 of additional GDP. This study was of European TIPOs but I believe that much of the guidance and the evidence is also relevant for all of you here today. Investing in TIPOs is a wise economic strategy for future growth and competitiveness.

TIPOs, like their clients, operate in a fast-changing world economy. That is why this conference will focus on the future and how TIPOs and SMEs can best confront challenges and take full advantage of exciting new opportunities. Among the megatrends we will look at are demographic and social changes, shifts in global economic power, urbanisation, climate change and technological advances. All are re-shaping the world as we speak, and will continue to do so in the future.

One of the areas that we will focus on is how TIPOs can help their SMEs navigate this increasingly complex world of standards. Meeting the Standard for Trade, the topic of this year’s ITC SME Competitiveness Outlook is more than just a tagline. It is a policy direction. For SMEs to become or remain competitive they must have the knowledge, the expertise and the resources to meet the growing number of public and private standards in the 21st century trade landscape. A 10% increase in the number of technical regulations hits small firms’ export revenue twice as hard as large firms. This finding alone shows why investing in this capacity stream is a wise move. And your support is crucial for SMEs to move from 'more trade' to 'good trade'.

The digital revolution, made possible by technological innovations, is one of the most impactful megatrends we are seeing today. It opens the door not only to new types of innovation and creativity, but also economic activities, new business models, and new ways of reaching distant customers.

E-Commerce- one important element of this digital revolution-levels the playing field for SMEs in global trade – but only if they have the hard and soft infrastructure to do so. From internet connectivity to access to international payment systems, logistics services, and addressing cumbersome customs procedures – all of them are essential to leverage e-commerce to help connect the unconnected.

We in ITC have embraced the digital revolution both in our own operations and in our portfolio of services. Right here in Morocco, our E-Solutions programme has smoothed the path for a growing group of Moroccan SMEs to become ‘micro-multinationals’, selling everything from argan oil to jewellery and clothing over the internet to customers in Europe and beyond.

And we are now reflecting this experience in Rwanda, Senegal, Syria and Jordan. Members of the WTO are currently exploring how trade policy can better support e-commerce for SMEs. You - we - can help them by gathering the views from SMEs on the ground to inform them with useful experiences but also with the trade obstacles that they could help address. We will be circulating a survey to all of you to help us gather concrete information.

There is an important gender dimension to e-commerce which will also be showcased over these next two days around ITC’s Shetrades initiative. I want all of you here today to be champions of women’s economic empowerment and own Shetrades as your rallying cry to get more women-owned businesses onto the digital highway. Not only because we are living in the 21st century; but because removing existing discriminatory barriers to women in trade would be like adding a new USA or China to the world economy. Do you want to forego that?

Technology has underpinned the rise of regional and global value chains, with individual tasks disaggregated across different countries. This has created exciting new opportunities for new modes for SMEs to tap into international trade and investment. The challenge facing TIPOs today is two-fold: One, how best to enable SMEs in their countries to take advantage of these value chains in a profitable and sustainable manner. And two, how to leverage ongoing regional economic initiatives to foster the development of regional value chains.

There is an important role here for TIPOs to cooperate more with each other and develop sub-regional umbrella groups. The move by Arab TIPOs just yesterday to create a regional network 'ACTION' (Arab Countries Trade Promotion Organisation Network) is a great step in that direction. Be assured we will be there to support you. And I hope we can move in that direction with African regional groupings as well.

There is an old Central Africa proverb that says ‘"If you dream of moving mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting small stones today." Over these next two days you will hear examples of how some are moving mountains and how some are lifting stones; but more importantly you will learn the space between- how to move from lifting a stone to moving a mountain. And indeed that is very much your role: To be a multiplier, a teacher, a partner for the SMEs in your countries to collectively lift those mountains.

I encourage you to take full advantage of this unique opportunity to renew old acquaintances and forge new partnerships to help you help your clients thrive in trade.

Thank you for your attention.