On the 14th October 2015, the European Commission presented its new Trade and Investment Strategy for the European Union, entitled 'Trade for All: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy'. ESBA welcomes the new trade strategy which pays more attention to the needs of small business. We have long called for the European Commission to take a small business perspective and for the 'think small first' principle to drive trade policy. Thus, the new strategy, which contains a number of SME specificities, is a welcomed step in the right direction. We would also encourage EU negotiators to push for the inclusion of a small business chapter in all future EU trade agreements.
Currently, 600,000 EU SMEs export goods and services to the rest of the world, accounting for one third of total EU exports. Even more SMEs have the ambition to go international, but they are reluctant to take advantage of the current opportunities because of the costs involved when entering a new market, legal uncertainties and language barriers. Whilst the costs involved are the same for all companies, regardless of size, due to their limited financial and human resources small and micro companies are disproportionately impacted by them. For example, simply obtaining reliable market information and knowing what regulations apply is a costly exercise for SMEs and acts as a significant barrier to trade. ESBA is pleased that the new trade strategy includes dedicated SME provisions, including web portals. We do however advise the Commission to conduct an awareness raising campaign so SMEs know that these facilities exist.
Additionally, ESBA supports the Commission in its endeavour to simplify the rules of origin and welcomes its commitment to conduct regular surveys on the barriers SMEs face in specific markets and work more closely with SME representatives, as well as subject every significant initiative in the field of trade policy to an impact assessment. ESBA would, however, want these impact assessments to include a comprehensive SME test.
ESBA looks forward to working with Commissioner Malmstrom and the European Commission to ensure that this focus on small business continues, as well as make sure the 'think small first' principle guides the EU's trade and investment policy.