International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) released the recommendation of ten steps to enable global micro-, small- and medium-sized business (MSMEs) to weather the COVID-19 crisis on May 7, calling on governments to save MSMEs with a three-stage trade policy. It is stated that MSMEs, comprising 90% of companies across the globe and more than 50% of the world’s total employment, are critical to the recovery of global economy.
At the current stage, ICC calls on governments to take immediate response to limit the damage on trade caused by COVID-19, specified in the following five steps, which are 1) to improve access to information on trade policy changes to help MSMEs monitor potentially complex changes in tariff and non-tariff restrictions; 2) to commit to saving MSMEs without sliding into protectionism and make sure the supportive measures are compatible with international trade law obligations; 3) to loosen timeframes for payments of customs duties and fees with an extension no less than 90 days and subject to further review; 4) to keep supply chain functional and cost-efficient; 5) to enable paperless trade.
In short term, ICC advocates that governments should take measures to mitigate further disruption by keeping trade finance flowing. ICC also encourages all governments to temporarily include short-term credit within the remit of their respective credit agencies.
In mid-term, ICC calls on governments to level the trading field in four aspects, which are 1) to invest in digital infrastructure to help MSMEs to transit to virtual operations, and to provide donor assistance to countries that are most in need, including through a significant scaling of e-trade capacity building programmes; 2) to prioritize trade facilitation reform, to this end ICC urges all WTO members to commit to speeding up implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement; 3) to join and give priority to the WTO MSME Joint Statement Initiatives negotiations, to push concrete deliverables in the ministerial recommendations and to demonstrate commitment to improving MSME access to the trading system; 4) to keep up momentum on WTO reform to achieve long-lasting systemic change to the multilateral trading system.
ICC emphasizes that it stands ready to work with governments and businesses to help resolve the crisis at hand and recover the economy, and suggests all governments taking measures of the recommended policy settings in an active manner to save MSMEs and to ensure trade works for the benefit of all human beings.