As Europe confronts the Covid-19 pandemic and economic upheaval looms large, business continuity plans are essential like never before. So is making the best out of a slow-down by assessing a given modus operandi not only in the light of what needs to be adapted and adopted, but also to improve structures and performance once the economy begins to recuperate. This hiatus can be particularly beneficial to hard-hit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
SMEs comprise the majority of all businesses in the EU providing about two-thirds of the total private sector employment in the EU and spurring the main source of job creation. Nevertheless, SMEs face a number of market access concerns and barriers on a daily basis, including tariff barriers; non-tariff barriers; problems arising from incorrect implementation of existing rules or inadequate enforcement; a dearth of entrepreneurial, managerial and marketing skills; insufficient accessibility to information and knowledge as well as difficulties in accessing financial resources to overcome a lack of capital.
The EU’s Market Access Database (https://madb.europa.eu/madb/indexPubli.htm) provides the necessary trade tools specifically to assist SMEs. This toolbox includes the following initiatives:
- The Enterprise Europe Network for SMEs
This support network boasts of 3,000 experts across 600 member organisations in more than 60 countries, which include chambers of commerce and industry, technology centres, and research institutes.
- Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) SME Helpdesk
The rationale behind this Helpdesk is to both protect and enforce the SMEs IPR with particular regard to China, Latin America and Southeast Asia through the provision of free information and services. Offered via audio and video podcasts, helpline, case studies and factsheets, the Helpdesk’s assistance encompasses advice on IPR, including training. The Helpdesk’s IP Country Guides assist economic operators – through specific Helpdesks – to improve the understanding of the IPR landscape in China, Latin America and South-East Asia.
- Trade Defence SME Helpdesk
This Helpdesk provides importers and exporters with assistance on trade defence instruments, namely anti-dumping duties and countervailing measures which are imposed with a view to safeguard free and fair trade in trading relations.
- Your Europe Business Portal
This is a practical guide to doing business in Europe through the provision of services to business organisations who are looking for business opportunities both within the internal market and in third countries.
- Access to Finance portal
Through this Portal, SMEs are guided to find finance supported by the EU (http://europa.eu/youeurope/business/funding-grants/access-to-finance/index
The EU’s market access database is the right tool to assist SMEs all over the European Union to internationalise their activities and improve their market access as much as possible. Furthermore, it also provides the tools to identify and eliminate any tariff or non-tariff barriers to trade which are erected vis-à-vis European companies, besides protecting European countries IP rights overseas, while also assisting SMEs to access the much needed finance for their investment and economic activities.