Excellencies, distinguished professors, representatives of various business associations, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning!

It is my great pleasure to join you in this policy workshop on the ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Mauritius’, hosted by the University of Mauritius under the auspice of the WTO Chairs Programme.

The WTO Chairs Programme aims to support and promote trade-related academic activities carried out by universities and research institutions in developing and least developed countries. During the past few years, the Chairs have produced a significant amount of relevant research outputs and study programmes. They have also, on numerous occasions, provided evidence-based and applied research to governmental and other policy makers and stakeholders to support trade policy formulation. This shows that the Programme has been fruitful and useful.

I welcome this initiative taken by our Chair in Mauritius to discuss how to help the Mauritian MSMEs, particularly, women-led enterprises, to recover from the current pandemic with the support by the Dutch Government through its funding of the WTO Chairs Programme Phase 2. The topic is well chosen and has its realistic significance.  It gives me the occasion to recall some important points.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant negative impact on our citizens and our businesses, in particular on those operating as MSMEs all over the world.  MSMEs are the backbone of many economies. According to the WTO's research, MSMEs represent 95 per cent of companies across the globe and account for 60 per cent of the world's total employment. They contribute to around 35 per cent of GDP in developing countries and around 50 per cent in developed countries. They are major employers of women and young people, and a key driver of innovation and economic growth.

Unfortunately, when the whole world is facing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, MSMEs are among those that have been hit hardest by the crisis. A study by the UN International Trade Centre shows that 60% of micro and 57% of small businesses have been strongly affected by the pandemic, compared with 43% of large firms. Due to their limited resources, surviving the crisis has been daunting for MSMEs. Therefore, it is important to have policies in place to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on MSMEs. A coordinated global response is crucial to helping MSMEs respond and recover from the pandemic.

At the WTO, Members have been considering MSME-related issues through various policy dialogues. Focused discussions are taking place within the MSMEs Informal Working Group. The Group has recently finalized its draft ministerial declaration. Some WTO Members, including members of the MSME Group, also issued a “Statement on highlighting the importance of MSMEs in the time of COVID-19” in May 2020. This statement called for further actions to foster the involvement of MSMEs in international trade and to ensure that supply chains remain open and connected. Members expect more to be delivered soon particularly at the WTO's upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference.

Here, I call for the international community's joint efforts to help MSMEs overcome the current crisis and build resilience to future shocks. I encourage WTO Members to foster a transparent, inclusive, non-discriminatory, and predictable global trade environment that supports and enhances MSMEs' involvement in international trade.

Today's workshop is also an important opportunity to look at this topical issue in a very practical and policy-oriented way in the national context of Mauritius. I appreciate the great efforts of the organizer and all members of the WTO Chair in the University of Mauritius to bring together stakeholders from relevant ministries, the private sector, and academia to exchange ideas.

I encourage all participants to share your insights on possible ways forward to help MESMs to survive the current crisis and achieve more prosperity. I wish the workshop a great success.




Problems viewing this page? If so, please contact [email protected] giving details of the operating system and web browser you are using.