The International Trade Centre (ITC) is what I have often termed a ‘strange animal.’ It is a development agency which brings together three different but inter-related strands: the WTO focus on trade opening through multilateral negotiations; the United Nations focus on poverty reduction and development; and the on the ground focus of the private sector on leveraging growth through trade and investment.
We are a hands-on, pragmatic and technical organisation that focuses on providing solutions to SMEs. The context that we are operating in is clear: the post 2015 discourse and renewed multilateralism very much led by the adoption of the Trade Facilitation Agreement in Bali.
Given the estimates that more than 95% of enterprises across the world are SMEs accounting for close to 70% of employment- with this even greater in low income countries where the employment share is close to 80%, our focus on SME competitiveness is sound. We know that 85% of total employment growth between 2002 and 2010 was attributable to SMEs. But we also know that in the SME ecosystem, there are many that never make it past the first year of business. There is a high mortality rate amongst start-ups. We must ensure that the survival rate improves. We also know that high-growth enterprises play a disproportionate role in job creation. The two major distinguishing characteristics of high-growth SMEs are their export orientation and their innovation capabilities. We must work to help survivors move up the value chain and internationalise.