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lundi, 30 mars 2020 14:07

Message from ITC Executive Director a.i. on COVID-19 and small businesses

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The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is severely affecting all aspects of how we communicate, work, produce, trade, consume and live. The economic and social disruption will undermine global growth and disrupt value chains.

The coronavirus poses a significant threat to the millions of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) across the world, more so in the most vulnerable countries. These MSMEs account for more than 90% of employment in developing countries and they are facing export restrictions, closed borders, decreasing demand and a rapid slowdown in global supply chains. This is especially the case in the tourism and hospitality sectors, which often employ a majority of women and youth.

As we move forward in our efforts to contain the pandemic and reinforce our health systems, we will also have to step up our efforts to minimize the economic damage and begin looking toward a post coronavirus phase.

It is critical that markets stay open and that supply chains remain intact. Rather than retaining tariffs or restrictions on the import and export of goods or imposing new ones, especially on medical and sanitary equipment, policymakers should instead be looking at bringing down these barriers. Global protection and not global protectionism should be the focus.

We welcome the pledge by leaders of the Group of 20 economies to inject $5 trillion in fiscal spending into the global economy to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus and “do whatever it takes” to overcome the pandemic. We also note their concern about the risks to fragile countries, notably in Africa, and their acknowledgement of the need to bolster global financial safety nets and national health systems.

In particular, we welcome the G20 pledge to ensure the flow of vital medical supplies and other goods across borders and to resolve supply chain disruptions.

At the International Trade Centre, all hands are on deck to step up our continued support to MSMEs. This means shifting the way we deliver services to the people and businesses that benefit from ITC’s projects and programmes.

Thankfully, ITC has, for several years, been scaling up its capacities to deliver training and workshops remotely. Our SME Trade Academy, SheTrades initiative and Trade and Market Intelligence tools exemplify this best.

This week, for example, more than 350 students from Guangdong University’s Foreign Studies & School of International Governance Innovations in China joined a series of webinars on ITC data and analysis. Meanwhile, the SheTrades initiative,in collaboration with the EQUALS Global Partnership, hosted a series of webinars on access to finance for women in the tech sector, while over 400 users accessed training modules on the SheTrades Virtual Learning hub.

Similar exercises are taking place across ITC. All our projects and programmes are now leveraging existing knowledge and bringing onboard new technologies to deliver workshops and collaborate with our partners.

As ITC continues to provide support to MSMEs during the ongoing pandemic, we are also aiming to help them build resilience to continue operations after the crisis. We are working with MSMEs to further strengthen regional value chains, especially in Africa. This contributes to setting the foundation for the soon-to-be-operational African Continental Free Trade Agreement. We are providing advice and guidance to companies adapting their operations to produce medical supplies and equipment. In Ethiopia, for example, textile companies participating in our Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa programme are now retooling their production lines to produce facemasks for the health sector.

Today we are also launching a special page on our website dedicated to MSMEs and the fight against COVID-19. This webpage will serve as a hub for companies looking for information on what ITC is doing to support them, but will also be a place for sharing examples of what measures trade-support institutions across the world are putting in place to support MSMEs. We will also be ramping up our analysis of trade data to help enterprises and policymakers stay informed and make better decisions. You can visit our COVID-19 page here.

I am grateful for the support and words of encouragement ITC has received from funders, beneficiaries and other partners in recent weeks. Through partnership and commitment we will continue to ensure trade impact for good.

Our primary focus now is to ensure that we play our part in keeping businesses in developing countries afloat. By doing this, workers will keep their jobs, people and communities will get through the crisis and trade will continue to serve as a lever of growth.

Dorothy Tembo, Executive Director a.i.
International Trade Centre

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