Leveraging the Participation of SMEs in International Trade

Local and regional participants engaged in a presentation on the Importance of Strategic Partnerships and Modes of Service Delivery by presenter, Dr. Keron Niles.

The Small Business Association, recently hosted a regional workshop in collaboration with the Caribbean Export Development Agency, with funding provided by the European Union, on the theme “Leveraging the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.”

The Small Business Association, in its effort to facilitate the growth of the local micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector, recently hosted a regional workshop in collaboration with the Caribbean Export Development Agency, with funding provided by the European Union, on the theme “Leveraging the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.”

The workshop, which was attended by over 50 local and regional participants, sought to encourage small business owners to think bigger and addressed the opportunities that the CARIFORUM-European Union EPA offered to the MSME sector.

The comprehensive trade agreement formed by the EU was signed by Barbados and other CARIFORUM countries in 2008. This agreement was aimed at encouraging the trade in goods, services and investments between the two regions. It also sought to foster sustainable development and regional integration along with aiding economic adjustment and modernisation within the signed CARIFORUM territories.

However, facilities like the CARIFORUM-EU EPA, have fallen short of the intended targets relative to mobilising MSMEs to participate in the trade process. This is evident as ten years after the EPA came into effect, CARIFORUM MSMEs have yet to maximise the opportunities available through this facility. Therefore, the main objective of the regional workshop was to educate small business owners on the possibility of export trade. Another objective of the workshop was to address those inhibiting factors that affect the maximisation of MSMEs in global trade, particularly the CARIFORUM-EU EPA.

The two-day event focused on providing the tools needed to build capacity for MSMEs’ to capitalise on the opportunities for growth and export trade. Participants were involved in open discussions with key players from various business support organisations including the Caribbean Export Development Agency and the Barbados Investment Development Corporation. They were also engaged by representatives of other organisations such as the European Union Delegation and the Caribbean Development Bank. Presentations extensively covered areas of the EPA which were of fundamental importance for small business owners including understanding the rules and regulations for exporting goods. The workshop also included panel discussions on key topics and demonstrations of where and how participants could conduct greater market intelligence research for their company.

The main take-away points included that entrepreneurs must show more creativity and innovation in finding ways to take advantage of the opportunities available to them. Additionally, small business owners were urged to take a more aggressive approach towards conducting research and gaining more knowledge for their betterment. The concept of forming strategic alliances was also heavily emphasised by all presenters. Participants were encouraged to partner with other entrepreneurs in order to build capacity and make the sector stronger. As a result, MSMEs would be more capable of meeting the standards, requirements and demands of the EU market. Having this strength in numbers would also allow the sector to lobby effectively for required policy changes to ensure that the opportunities available under the EPA are more readily accessible.

Lastly, small business owners were prompted to start thinking on a macro level with regards to their company brand. This can be done through ensuring that they have a good business plan and strategy and that overall improvements are made to their business operations in order to meet a globally competitive standard.