21 June 2016, Geneva – The Philippines, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore and Thailand, together with the International Trade Center (ITC) organized a WTO workshop on “Enhancing the Participation of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in International Trade.”
The Philippines has been headstrong in its MSME advocacy and has successfully launched the Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs in Global Trade and the Ilo-Ilo Initiative as the host APEC 2015. The Philippines has also taken this advocacy to the main trade body – the WTO.
The workshop is a continuation of the dialogue that the Philippines has undertaken in 2015 to bring MSMEs front and center in trade policy discussions. “The workshop created another opportunity to enhance our awareness of the role of MSMEs in international trade. We were able to share experiences and identify best practices, success factors and challenges related to the participation of MSMEs in international trade. The intention of the workshop was to offer the WTO Members the best source for this information, which is why, the Philippines has arranged for a peer-led exchange by people who work directly with MSMEs, complemented by expert input” – said Philippine Mission to the WTO Ambassador, Esteban Conejos,Jr.
From the left: Mr. Robert Koopman, Chief Economist and Director of Economic Research and Statistics, WTO; Mr. Alejandro Jara, Senior Counsel, King and Spalding LLP, Geneva and former DDG, WTO; Ms. Hafsah Hashim, Chief Executive Officer, SME Corporation Malaysia; Ms. Arancha González, Executive Director, ITC; H.E. Mr. Esteban Conejos, Jr., Ambassador, Permanent Representative, Philippine Mission to the WTO; Mr. Roberto Azevêdo, Director-General, WTO; H.E. Ms. Nora K. Terrado, Vice-Minister of Trade and Industry, Philippines; Mr. Carlos Grau Tanner, Director-General, Global Express Association; Ms. Marion Jansen, Chief Economist, ITC
DTI Undersecretary Nora Terrado provided the Philippines’ perspective on MSMEs, highlighting the challenges and opportunities for MSMEs as key players in international trade, with particular focus on start-ups and innovation. “We need to build an environment where MSMEs can thrive in today’s dynamic and growing innovation economy. The Government has a key role in developing a strong innovation economy. At the same time we need parallel efforts in international fora. We should think globally as we cannot trade in isolation”. – said Undersecretary Terrado
MSMEs form the backbone of the Philippine economy, and the same could be said for all members of the WTO. SME discussions are not new, however, what the Philippines wanted to particularly highlight in trade policy discussion is the growing importance of Micro enterprises.
Micro enterprises, the smallest component of the SME sector, are increasingly the largest sources of employment in many developing countries, especially for women and youth. “If we want trade to be truly inclusive, then MSMEs should be at the core of the discussions. DTI’s leadership under Secretary Domingo and Secretary Cristobal has been instrumental in putting MSMEs front and center in trade policy discussions. Under the stewardship of the incoming DTI Secretary, whose life goal is also to give MSMEs a voice, the Philippines will continue to make headwinds in moving forward with the MSME agenda” - added Undersecretary Terrado.
The Philippines is organizing another working session at the upcoming WTO public forum event this coming September with a view to keeping the momentum on MSMEs in the WTO and to further thresh out concrete and practical initiatives for MSMEs within the existing WTO toolbox.
Philippine Mission to the WTO Ambassdor, Esteban Conejos, Jr. chaired and moderated the workshop has put emphasis that synergy is important for developing evidence-based practical solutions.
ITC Executive Director Arancha Gonzales, the Philippines’ co-organizer for the workshop, emphasizing that efforts to reduce trade costs and increase productivity and competitiveness are key actions where WTO can work on. Specific areas could include improvements in access to market information, access to trade finance, access to markets, and information of trade regulation and procedures.
WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo highlighting that a truly inclusive trading system offering MSMEs a chance to develop their potential could help to transform many lives around the world. This would mean tackling the barriers that MSMEs face when participating in trade — and the smaller the business, the bigger the barriers can seem.