“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economies, and in most countries, they represent over 90 per cent of all businesses and account for two thirds of jobs,” said the chair of the Sub-Committee, Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi of Finland. “This trend is even more pronounced in LDCs, so building LDCs' capacity to trade has in fact become synonymous with building small and medium-sized enterprises' capacity to trade.”

The International Trade Centre (ITC) noted that over 100 projects covering 43 LDCs were implemented by the ITC in 2021, notably to foster private sector development and the competitiveness of SMEs. It presented its activities regarding women's empowerment, youth empowerment, green growth, e-commerce and connectivity. Two female entrepreneurs from the Gambia working on 3D printing technology and sustainable tourism shared their experiences with ITC programmes.

The Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) highlighted how it is helping developing countries improve their capacity to implement international sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards and to participate more fully in world trade. It drew attention to a recently published guide on improving SPS measures and facilitating safe trade available online. Overall, 60 per cent of all grants have benefitted LDCs, it revealed. Madagascar shared its experiences with the implementation of the ePhyto Solution, which helps countries exchange phytosanitary certificates, allowing them to certify electronically that a plant or plant-related product is free from pests.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) focused on its Programme for Country Partnership (PCP) aimed at mobilizing large-scale public and private investments. Senegal explained how agricultural growth poles or “agropoles” could serve as geographical clusters of infrastructure and support services for SMEs and investors in the agro-industrial sector.

Cambodia shared information on “Go4eCAM”, supported by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), which aims to enhance the opportunities of SMEs in the e-commerce sector. This government-led initiative has supported more than 125 SMEs, of which 61 are led by women.

The WTO's LDC Group emphasised that “the pandemic has shown the extent to which micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in LDCs are vulnerable, particularly because of their lack of digitalization as well as the low level of industrialization”. It encouraged the ITC, STDF and UNIDO to pursue their efforts in LDCs in line with the programme of action for LDCs.

The LDCs stressed that LDC trade ministers will work with other WTO members to deliver results at the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), scheduled for 12 to 15 June. They highlighted some recent activities that have helped the LDC Group define common positions and better articulate their views to WTO members. One of these activities was an LDC Group retreat on priorities for MC12 held in March while the South-South Dialogue on LDCs and Development took place in May.

The LDCs reiterated their call for a workable outcome at MC12 on the issue of countries graduating from LDC status. They highlighted recent proposals on WTO reform and agriculture. In addition, they emphasized the importance of finding a multilateral response to the COVID-19 pandemic, concluding the negotiations on fisheries subsidies and addressing emerging food security challenges.


The Sub-Committee implements the WTO Work Programme for the LDCs, which promotes the interests of LDCs in global trade, particularly on market access, technical assistance and WTO accessions.




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