MEPs call for the internationalisation of EU SMEs as a priority for economic recovery

In a recently adopted report, the European Parliament urges the Commission and Member States to enable EU SMEs to develop in a harmonious manner, gain access to new markets and to expand their export activities and internationalisation. MEPs consider that the internationalisation of SMEs is a primary objective of trade policy and should constitute a cornerstone of the European Small Business Act, and stress the need to improve access to finance, for SMEs, especially to micro-credit, as well as their access to public procurement.

According to the report drafted by Italian MEP Cristiana Muscardini, there are 23 million SMEs in the European Union, but only 8% export goods outside their national borders. The House, therefore, stresses that the role of SMEs and their interests need to be taken into greater account in the WTO system, specially taking into account that 75 million jobs in the European Union are created by SMEs.

MEPs call on the Commission and Member States to review their priorities at multilateral level by promoting the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers and to foster international trade through appropriate measures to simplify and harmonise standards. The international trade system should also be made less onerous for SMEs, as their international performance is still “structurally weak”.

The report suggests to the Commission and Member States to increase the offer of training programs for entrepreneurs on the global business environment, such as the Enterprise Europe Network Project or Gateway to Japan and Korea, and calls for strengthened cooperation between SMEs and universities to enhance research and innovation. In this regard, the House encourages the creation of an EU special exchange for young entrepreneurs based in the Erasmus and Leonardo.

Finally, the Commission recommends to the Parliament and the Member States the introduction of information and training for SMEs that will provide an incentive to use trade defence instruments, and calls for improvement of services offered by the help-desk of the European system.

The report points out that facilitating access to international markets for SMEs can contribute to creating new jobs, protecting and adding value to existing jobs, safeguarding and exchanging know how and specific features of EU and giving Member States a guarantee of solid and lasting economic growth.
Therefore, MEPs believe that the Commission should aim to conclude free-trade agreements or other trade agreements that are favourable to the European economy as a whole and to SMEs in particular.

MEPs welcome the Commission's decision to withdraw the proposals for reform of the trade defence instruments. These reforms would not only have failed to enhance the external competitiveness of European industry but would have caused further serious damage to those Community industrial sectors jeopardised by foreign products illegally subsidised or unduly favoured by dumping practices.
The Trade Defence Instrument (TDI) system must continue to be a quasi-judicial procedure, based on objective and factual assessments, in order to provide for predictability and legal certainty, says the report.
MEPs call on the Commission and Member States to commit themselves with renewed vigour to preventing and combating counterfeiting.  SMEs should be encouraged to make use of instruments, such as patents, in order to secure their know-how and protect themselves against copying and counterfeiting.
The House also supports the establishment of an international multilateral register of geographical indications enabling SMEs to protect their own geographical indications in a simple and economical manner. MEPs consider that the list of protected geographical indications should be supplemented and extended to all EU products which, by their nature or place or method of production, provide EU SMEs with a ‘comparative advantage’ over similar products from third countries.

Enhancing access to public procurement

With regard to public tenders, EU SMEs should have the same level of advantages and possibilities as those offered to SMEs in the main industrialised countries (including the United States, Canada and Japan), says the report, adding that "public procurement should be a key chapter in all bilateral and regional trade negotiations undertaken by the European Union, with a view to opening up public procurement markets on a balanced basis".