WTO JSI on Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs)

As the Director-General of the WTO, Roberto Azevêdo, put it, “MSMEs are now at the heart of the trade debate – and that is where they belong.” For most WTO members, MSMEs make up the majority of their businesses but do not always share in the benefits of trade to the same extent as larger firms. Addressing the obstacles that create a burden for, and promoting the participation of, MSMEs in international trade are growing priorities at the WTO. It is also a priority for Canada, consistent with our inclusive approach to trade that seeks to ensure that all segments of society can share in the benefits and opportunities that trade creates, including traditionally underrepresented groups such as MSMEs.

In early 2017, a group of WTO Members calling themselves the “Friends of MSMEs,” led by Argentina, Brazil and Chile, successfully launched an informal dialogue on how the WTO can support the integration of MSMEs into international trade. At the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) in December 2017, Canada and 86 other WTO Members issued a Joint Ministerial Statement establishing an informal work program on MSMEs. Sessions of the Informal Working Group are open to any WTO member who wishes to attend or participate.

During 2018, the Informal Working Group held several thematic sessions to explore the different challenges facing MSMEs in international trade (e.g. access to information, trade finance, reducing trade costs, and e-commerce) as well as to share information and experiences on the efforts of members to address these challenges.

In 2019, the Informal Working Group began to model its deliberations on the way formal WTO Committees operate. It also began to reflect on its objectives for the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) in June 2020. As a result, the MSME Informal Working Group is currently drafting a Ministerial declaration for MC12 that will guide efforts up to the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference. As set out in the MC11 Joint Ministerial Statement, the group will continue to work towards the establishment of a formal work programme for MSMEs at the WTO.

Domestic policy considerations

Canada is an active participant in the Informal Working Group on MSMEs, established at the MC11. Canada has championed an inclusive approach to trade within the Informal Working Group, and has encouraged members to adopt policies and programs to help MSMEs become more productive, innovative and export-oriented. The Joint Statement Initiative is fully in line with Canada’s domestic policies and programs to promote increasing productivity, innovation and exports for Canadian MSMEs.

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