One big coalition for many small businesses

26 July 2022
ITC News

ITC and the WTO Informal Working Group on MSMEs support small firms through the Global Trade Helpdesk

The International Trade Centre recognizes that partnerships can contribute to impactful projects and sustainable outcomes. To celebrate the teamwork behind the Partnerships4Purpose efforts, ITC is proud to highlight game-changing initiatives that are made possible through strong and meaningful collaboration.

As the COVID-19 pandemic brought the vulnerabilities of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) sharply into focus, a coalition of global agencies[1] joined forces and created the Global Trade Helpdesk.

Launched in 2020, the free, digital platform simplifies market research for firms by pulling together key trade and market information from across a dozen databases of 11 agencies into a single search. The platform empowers firms of all sizes as they adapted to the pandemic-related trade and supply chain challenges.

Since its launch on MSME Day in 2020, the Global Trade Helpdesk has been used by over 115,000 firms and business support organization across 204 economies.

The unique approach: Matching timely, relevant data with political support and targeted outreach

Seeing the value of the Global Trade Helpdesk, the World Trade Organization’s Informal Working Group on MSMEs, which brings together 94 WTO Members encouraging small firms to participate in global trade, decided to partner with the ITC give the Global Trade Helpdesk Initiative more visibility. The collaboration set out to garner more support from member governments alongside building awareness through joint outreach events.

The Impact: Helping over 115,000 firms in making informed trade decisions

The multi-agency partnership with the WTO Informal Working Group on MSMEs has been very effective in helping build awareness of the Global Trade Helpdesk, both with WTO member governments as well as with the private sector at large.

In December 2020, the Group released a package of recommendations for small businesses, including a specific recommendation on Access to Information that highlighted the Global Trade Helpdesk as the go-to-source of trade information. The Working Group Members also pledged to fill remaining data gaps and make available the most complete and reliable information possible through a biannual survey distributed by the Group in October 2021.

In December 2021, when the WTO IWG released the Trade4MSMEs website, a complimentary source bringing together a broad repository of links of trade-related sites and publications, ITC tools and resources were prominently featured including the Global Trade Helpdesk.

To ensure that crucial trade information reaches those who need it most, the small businesses, the Global Trade Helpdesk in collaboration with the Informal Working Group on MSMEs organizes joint webinars and outreach events with government ministries, as well as quarterly open webinars in English, French and Spanish for firms around the globe.

In a session organized with Chilean businesses on 2 June, Marcela Otero, Director General of Multilateral Economic Affairs of Chile, highlighted the incredible relevance of the information provided by the Global Trade Helpdesk as less than 2% of Chilean firms were actively exporting in 2021. After the session, all 76 participating firms reported that the platform would help simplify their market research and inform their export decisions.

Alone throughout June of this year, similar events attracted the participation of over 500 firms from across 54 economies.

Moving forward: Joint events for more impact

ITC will continue to collaborate actively with the WTO Informal Working Group on MSMEs to empower small firms and business support organizations through joint outreach events, trainings and initiatives like the Small Business Champions, which recognizes firms for their trade-related innovations.

The Global Trade Helpdesk Initiative is led by the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United National Committee on Trade and Development (UNCTAD),  and the World Trade Organization (WTO),  in partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), African Development Bank (AfDB), InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Customs Union (WCO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Bank Group