The 2018 World Trade Promotion Organization Conference kicked off yesterday in Paris, with the aim of building a stronger business ecosystems to help small businesses to thrive.

Business practices and the global trade landscape are being disrupted by forces including new technologies, rising protectionist pressures and shifting consumer tastes towards sustainable consumption.

Against this backdrop, the event aims to place trade and investment promotion organizations at the centre of the discussion on raising the competitiveness of small and medium sized enterprises to help drive inclusive growth.

Representatives of these organizations from 86 countries and territories are gathered from 25‑26 October to explore the theme of Trade and Investment Ecosystems: Delivering for Growth. The conference is co-hosted by Business France and the International Trade Centre.

‘The ecosystem of institutions that surround and support businesses play an important role in equipping them to take full advantage of trade and digitalization,’ said Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), opening the conference. ‘Trade and investment promotion organizations can play a key role in enabling smaller businesses to benefit from big data, while fostering greater public trust in new technologies.’

‘The development of international trade is the key to our prosperity, and I’m certain if we do this properly, it can be a lever for development for all countries,’ said Christophe Lecourtier, Chief Executive Officer of Business France, co-host of the conference. ‘This involves historic partnerships and developed economies, and in this rapidly changing world, the economic powers of tomorrow.’

These national bodies are adapting to fuel economic growth that is more inclusive and sustainable. The focus is on creating jobs and supporting entrepreneurs, especially women and youth, as well as using digital tools for greater impact.

Ms. González singled out three key priorities for trade and investment promotion organizations:

Move from a focus on export growth to strengthening businesses and entrepreneurs to support sustainable economic growth, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Work with a wide range of partners – from incubators to training institutes, academia and business associations – to create interdependent business ecosystems and achieve shared goals.

Build trust with businesses by bringing a credible voice to emerging online platforms – such as social media or user-rating systems – where businesses and the general public interact.

A key role of trade and investment promotion organizations is to support small and medium-sized enterprises with market intelligence, skills and networks needed to tap new markets.

ITC research has shown these organizations contribute directly to national gains in productivity and competitiveness. A recent study of European trade promotion organizations showed that for each dollar invested in these agencies, they generated an additional $87 in exports and an additional $384 for a country’s gross domestic product.

As part of this conference, organizations that demonstrate excellence in helping small firms trade across borders were showcasing how they revolutionize their organizations to deliver for their clients.

As part of this awards process, 11 organizations have been nominated from: Austria, Egypt, Ghana, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nigeria, State of Palestine, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea and Switzerland.

The shortlisted organizations were competing in three categories: best use of a partnership; best use of information technology; and best initiative to ensure that trade is inclusive and sustainable.

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