Working Group on Small Business Close to Finalizing Ministerial Declaration
· MC12 draft declaration on small business
· Implementation of the package of recommendations and declarations
· MSMEs, IP and innovation
· MSMEs discussions in other WTO bodies
· Innovation and rural MSMEs
Members of the Informal Working Group on Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) on 26 July moved closer to a final draft ministerial declaration for the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12). The Group also reviewed the implementation of the package of declarations and recommendations for MSMEs adopted in December 2020. New topics, such as intellectual property rights and innovation in relation to MSMEs, were also discussed.
Group members discussed the draft declaration (INF/MSME/W/33/Rev.2) for MC12, focusing on reaching consensus on a few bracketed areas of the text where an issue is still under consideration. They resolved differences on most parts of the text while agreeing to further consultation on a few remaining issues.
The Coordinator of the Group, Ambassador José Luís Cancela (Uruguay), urged members to intensify the consultation with each other before 1 September. He said he plans to discuss with all concerned parties between 1 and 6 September to finalize the agreed language for the declaration so that the text could be adopted at the next Group meeting on 24 September.
The draft declaration states the Group's commitment to address challenges facing MSMEs seeking to trade internationally. It recognizes the negative impact of COVID-19 on small business and the need for a global coordinated response to help MSMEs recover from the pandemic. It also takes stock of the Group's work since it was established at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in December 2017, including the adoption of a package of six recommendations and declarations in December 2020.
Group members reiterated the importance of monitoring the implementation of the package of recommendations for MSMEs. They discussed the format of an overview to easily track actions taken to implement the package.
Uruguay and Brazil provided updates on their preparations for setting up automatic transmission of tariff and trade data to the WTO's Integrated Data Base (IDB). Keeping the IDB fully up to date was one of the package's recommendations so that MSMEs can have access to reliable and comprehensive information on tariffs and other market access data.
Côte d'Ivoire said it will submit in September its proposed roadmap to help MSMEs gain access to trade finance. This was first discussed at the Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance in May. The proposal builds on the Group's text on access to finance adopted in December 2020.
The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Daren Tang, introduced the organization's work on developing intellectual property (IP) tools (such as the IP Diagnostic Tool) to support MSMEs' growth and innovation. He also said an important area of WIPO's work is helping evaluate intangible IP rights of MSMEs to facilitate their access to funding. Noting the importance of MSMEs in both developed and developing countries, he expressed his intention to work with all WTO members to distribute WIPO's IP tools to local MSMEs in a tailor-made approach that fits each country's situation.
Several members praised WIPO's tools and its new focus on the nexus of IP and MSMEs. The coordinator pointed to the synergy between WIPO's and the Group's work and called for further cooperation on this issue.
The WTO Secretariat updated the Group on discussions at the TRIPS (trade-related intellectual property rights) Council, noting a total of 116 interventions on the issue of MSMEs and innovation since 2014. Those interventions touched upon a wide range of topics, including how national strategies help MSMEs deal with the complexity of navigating IP systems, technical assistance and the linkages with e-commerce.
Several members joined the coordinator in support of more synergies between the TRIPS Council and the Group's work.
The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF, a multi-agency initiative supporting the participation of least developed countries in international trade) briefed the Group on its "ASYCUDA-CDS Communication Platform Project" in Vanuatu, developed in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the Universal Postal Union. The platform is a management system for better integration of postal services with customs and more efficient border clearance for MSMEs. The project could be replicated in other countries, the EIF said.
The WTO Secretariat introduced the new Vietnamese version of the e-Ping platform, an online alert system that helps companies follow new developments on standards and regulations for traded goods. The platform helps Vietnamese MSMEs assess the impact of new requirements on their exports and react accordingly. Viet Nam thanked the WTO Secretariat for the pilot phase and looked forward to it being extended to other sectors.
Ecuador shared its experience of projects supporting MSMEs' innovation in rural areas, in particular in the flower and agri-business sectors. Several members supported its activities in this area.
The Informal Working Group on MSMEs was launched at the 11th 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.