Realising the Promise of Trade Facilitation Reform for Smaller Businesses

Two new publications focus on engaging MSMEs and addressing their needs

Despite its vast scale, the global economy has its roots in small businesses that, as they grow and provide jobs in their communities, represent the backbones of national economies. Trade facilitation offers the promise of new business opportunities in international markets for micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) but trade reform can do a better job of understanding and addressing the hurdles that prevent them from realizing these gains. 

Today, the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation releases two publications that can help those involved in trade reforms better understand the specific challenges facing MSMEs and make real strides in helping these smaller businesses share in the benefits of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). 

The first of these papers, Small Businesses, Great Opportunities, showcases research that confirms MSMEs should be the primary beneficiaries of trade facilitation reforms and suggests ways that these efforts can do better at engaging smaller businesses to make the process more attune to their particular needs.

The second publication, The Trade Facilitation Agreement Through an MSME Lens, provides practical guidance on actions the Alliance, policy makers, and development practitioners can take to ensure that implementation of the TFA supports MSMEs as they look to enter or grow in world markets. 

Both publications have drawn on best practices in engaging MSMEs in trade facilitation reforms worldwide and add lessons from the Alliance’s own experience in delivering projects to make trade simpler, faster, and less costly.

“Trade facilitation reforms can unlock enormous value for smaller businesses if we involve them more in the reform process and engage them in ways that recognise that the people in these businesses have limited time and resources,” said Candice White, Alliance Knowledge Specialist and the author of both publications. “Reform efforts can help MSMEs build new or stronger relations with government agencies, include training to help them make the most of their opportunities, and do a better job of measuring impacts on smaller businesses.”

The Alliance has been applying these lessons in its own projects. To build more inclusive partnerships as part of its work, the Alliance is reaching out through the national committees of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), one of its host organisations, as well as through the supplier networks of its more than 30 global business partners. 

The Alliance is also designing projects to be more sensitive to MSME needs, emphasizing the need for communications and systems to be designed in ways they can be easily understood by all businesspeople and that use local languages and include user-friendly assistance. 

These publications are stepping stones in furthering the Alliance’s knowledge base in making trade facilitation reforms work for MSMEs They allow it to hone its own approach while it gathers more data and experience from its projects that will be shared regularly. 

Click here to download the publications.