Bringing SMEs to the center of policy debate

Until recently, SMEs have lacked an organization that would champion their cause, despite their pivotal role in inclusive economic growth and job creation. When B20 and G20 leaders supported the creation of the World SME Forum (WSF) in 2015, SME-focused advocacy was one of the main tasks they had in mind for the new entity.

Fast forward to May 2016, WSF has been living up to the expectations, by bringing SMEs’ needs and perspective to the fore during several high level events and discussions with regulators, international organizations and the development community at large. The last two weeks of May were particularly intense and fruitful to our efforts in advocating SMEs’ advancement and their vital importance to inclusive economic development.

On May 28, I delivered a speech on “Cross-border E-Commerce: G20 Policy Options”, at the CIFTIS Conference in Beijing. The event was organized by our institutional partner ITC (International Trade Center) and China B20 (CCPIT), with the support of the World Trade Organization (WTO). During the event, ITC also presented a report on “Bringing SMEs onto the E-Commerce Highway”. We believe e-commerce represents the biggest opportunity that SMEs have had in decades, and this is the time to make smart policy decisions so that small businesses may effectively benefit from this disruption. WSF has already started working on programs to help SMEs on skills and capacity building, certification; as well as on facilitating best practice sharing and peer to peer exchange between affiliates.

On May 30, WSF participated in the first ever WTO Private Sector Trade dialogue, organized by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and China B20. WSF’s participation, together with focused remarks from ICC leadership and private sector representatives, helped put the SME agenda at the center of the dialogue. SMEs’ growth can offer a potential recipe to revive sluggish trade and a new focus/narrative for WTO going forward. Trade needs to be inclusive, and SMEs are an essential part to it.

On May 31, we participated in a series of events held during the annual OECD Week. The day started with the Roundtable on Financing SMEs in Global Value Chains, co-organized by the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC), B20 China, WSF and the SME Finance Forum. The Roundtable identified synergies across the various B20 Task Forces’ recommendations and examined how they may support the financing of SMEs in global markets to fuel investment and growth. WSF’s article on “Opportunities and Challenges Facing SMEs in 2016 – An SME Perspective” was included in the Annual BIAC Publication.

WSF also participated in two highly attended “core program” sessions during the OECD Forum – on: “Next priorities for OECD & G20 towards an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy” and “Entrepreneurship and Development”. This was an excellent opportunity for an entity as young as the WSF to be part of the dialogue and to push for continued focus (and continuity) on the SME agenda as a recipe for inclusiveness.

Finally, WSF continued its active role in the proceedings of the China B20 SME Development Task Force, which met on the sidelines of the OECD Week. The second (quasi-final) draft of the Policy Paper was presented in Paris, and WSF continued to provide comprehensive input.

It is heartening to see how positively our message is resonating with well-established influential organizations, and how there seems to be a growing momentum to ensure new policies and initiatives will take into account SME’s needs and priorities.

WSF will continue to raise the voice of SMEs in international platforms in the months to come in Tbilisi, Nairobi, and Seoul.

Tunç Uyanık is the CEO of the World SME Forum.

For more information: www.worldsmeforum.org