Geneva, Switzerland – The Philippines, through the Philippine Trade and Investment Center – Geneva (PTIC-Geneva), together with 49 other WTO members who comprise the group “Friends of MSMEs” co-organized a working session in the 2017 WTO Public Forum entitled “The Case of MSMEs In Inclusive Trade For Sustainable Development”.

Undersecretary Zenaida C. Maglaya of the Regional Operations Group of the Department of Trade and Industry represented the Philippines. She was joined by Undersecretary Shunko Rojas of Argentina, Executive Director Arancha Gonzalez of International Trade Center (ITC), Senior Director Anabel Gonzalez of World Bank (WB), and Advisor of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as co-panellists.

“The significance of micro small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) as major economic drivers is beyond question. Their sheer number is overwhelming, as they account for over 95% of all enterprises in most countries,” Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya, Regional Operations Group of the Department of Trade and Industry said during the WTO Public Forum working session. “In a globalised world, there is a growing number of MSMEs who supply the export market either directly or indirectly by being involved in the production of parts and components for regional and global value chains serving large producers locally or abroad.”

Ms Arancha Gonzalez of ITC underscored that “when MSMEs internationalise, they become more competitive and provide better quality jobs. However, their topmost obstacle is good quality trade data. We also need to build more inclusive value chain for MSMEs. This starts at the level of trade agreements, expanding regionally and even multilaterally. Another opportunity for MSMEs is electronic commerce – it is the best ecosystem for MSMEs to internationalise without intermediaries, thereby capturing the trade value for itself.”

“ITU is the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICTs. With e-commerce becoming an emerging platform to help boost MSMEs growth, the ITU aims to bring all ICT stakeholders together to foster MSMEs to increase ICT growth,” Mark Scheurer of ITU.

“MSMEs, however, remain significantly underserved by financial institutions. Research has calculated that the credit gap that formal SMEs confront is about $1trillion. When informal SMEs are taken into account, that gap widens even further, to around $2.6 trillion. World Bank continues to explore policies and frameworks to support SMEs, and analyse innovations in the realm of SME finance realm,” Ms Anabel Gonzalez of WB added.

Ambassador Hector Casanueva of the Mission of Chile to the WTO and coordinator of the group of Friends of MSMEs served as the session’s moderator. The Friends of MSMEs is comprised of 50 WTO members namely, Argentina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, European Union (27), Guatemala, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, The Philippines, Russian Federation, Singapore, Switzerland, Uruguay, and Viet Nam.

“The recognition of MSMEs’ contribution has generated interest from policy makers the world over. In April 2017, the United Nations made its first step to recognize MSMEs as we now celebrate the World MSME Day every 27th of June. It is therefore fitting and about time that WTO members also seek to address and make a significant contribution in supporting the growth, and development of MSMEs. And, we can do so by considering the most appropriate arrangement to develop a set of activities and related programmes that will foster the participation of MSMEs in the global market with particular consideration to the needs and interests of developing and least developed countries,” concluded Undersecretary Maglaya.

With the theme “Trade: Behind the Headlines”, this year’s forum held on 26 – 28 September offered an opportunity to go beyond the rhetoric and examine in detail the realities of trade – the opportunities it offers and the challenges it can bring. WTO Director Azevedo opened the Forum with a plenary debate with Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center; Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund; Susana Malcorra, Minister Advisor to the government of Argentina; Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman of the South Africa-based Econet Group; and Naushad Forbes, co-chairman of Forbes Marshall and former president of the Confederation of Indian Industry. Of the 106 sessions, about 70 sessions discussed MSMEs and SMEs in one way or another.

The Public Forum is the WTO’s largest annual outreach event, which provides a platform for participants to discuss the latest developments in world trade and to propose ways of enhancing the multilateral trading system. The 3-day event attracts over 2,000 participants from civil society, academia, business, the media, governments, parliamentarians and inter-governmental organizations. Visit the WTO website for more information.