EU and ITC team up to connect SMEs from Eastern Partnership countries to global value chains

13 September 2017
ITC News
Eastern Partnership: Ready to Trade – an EU4Business Initiative seeks to improve competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises in six Eastern Partnership countries

An initiative project to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries to integrate into global value chains has been launched by the European Union and the International Trade Centre (ITC).

The ‘Eastern Partnership: Ready to Trade – an EU4Business Initiative’ is a three-year project and marks a new collaboration between the EU, ITC, and the six Eastern Partnership countries.

The project kicked off on 1 September with the launch of a six-month inception phase to tailor the activities and approach to the evolving economic conditions in all EaP countries.

In recent decades, the EaP countries have achieved significant progress in modernizing their economies and integrating into the global marketplace. However, countries still face the challenge of driving their economic reforms forward with a view to improving the business environment for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and investors. They also need to take advantage of yet underutilised opportunities to trade with the EU.

SMEs are widely seen as playing a pivotal role for economic transformation among EaP countries, accounting for 83% to 99% of total firms in the region. Still, SMEs’ exports represent only 8% of total revenues of manufacturing companies. Improving SME competitiveness and internationalization are therefore matters of priority for all the EaP countries.

The Ready to Trade project supports the policies and strategies of the Governments of the six partner countries, aimed at SME development, local value addition as well as export and market diversification, inter alia, through tighter trade links with the EU. The project will help SMEs produce value-added goods in accordance with international and EU market requirements and access global markets and value chains. The project will also strengthen capacities of local business support organizations to assist SMEs in trade and business activities.

Ashish Shah, Director of Country Programmes at ITC, said: ‘Greater economic integration between Eastern Partnership countries and the EU is crucial for advancing regional development and ITC is proud to be part of this effort. Through the Ready to Trade project we will help ensure momentum for the EU4Business initiative and, above all, ensure that SMEs in Eastern Partnership countries are enabled to produce more competitive goods, allowing them to connect with buyers in the EU.’

Lawrence Meredith, Director ‘Neighbourhood East’ in the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR),said:

‘The EU is committed to further support trade between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries as a top priority. Currently, many SMEs in the region still remain tied in low valued-added sectors, while partner countries face the challenge of driving their economic transition process forward with a view to create an attractive environment for investments and business, as well as to improve businesses' capacity to take advantage of the trade opportunities with the EU, such as the DCFTAs.

‘In this context, more needs to be done to support SMEs becoming more integrated into regional and international value chains, turning compliance with EU standards and requirement into an opportunity to upgrade and diversify their products or services. I therefore welcome the launch of the "Ready to Trade" project, which, as part of EU's wider EU4Business initiative, will be instrumental in delivering on our commitments for 2020.’

About ITC
ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development. For more information, visit Follow ITC on Twitter: @ITCnews

About the EU4Business Initiative
The EU4Business Initiative covers all EU support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region of the Eastern Partnership which brings together the EU, its member states and six partner countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

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