The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have launched a joint initiative to encourage smaller businesses to do business across borders – and businesses themselves are welcome to put proposals forward.

Championing Business Across Borderssmall business ideas

The joint initiative was launched this week by the Director-General of the WTO, Roberto Azevêdo, and the Secretary-General of the ICC, John Danilovich.

The aim of the initiative is to raise awareness of the barriers that MSMEs face in doing business across borders, highlight the experiences and successes of those MSMEs already trading internationally, facilitate access to critical information, and give MSMEs the skills to diversify export markets.

MSMEs’ share of international trade is small compared to their importance in the economy, particularly in less-developed countries. Often, this is because they lack the resources and knowledge to venture into the frequently complex world of international trade. New technologies can help to level the playing field.

Roberto Azevêdo said:

“The trading system is there for everyone, but MSMEs can often find it harder to reach overseas markets. The smaller the business, the bigger the barriers can seem. Spreading the benefits of trade further and wider means helping these companies to take part, particularly as MSMEs are such important job creators.”

Could You Design and Deliver a Proposal?

The ‘ICC-WTO Small Business Champions’ initiative wants companies and private sector organisations around the world to put forward new ideas to encourage micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to do business across borders. The successful candidates will be recognized as ‘ICC-WTO Small Business Champions’.

“I have heard many great ideas from the private sector over recent months about how we might be able to help MSMEs to trade,” says Roberto Azevêdo. “This initiative is our response – it is about capturing some of those ideas and using the shared platform of the WTO and ICC to help make them a reality. I look forward to seeing innovative proposals aimed at raising awareness among MSMEs of the opportunities that trade can provide, and how they can seize those opportunities.”

The ICC and WTO will use their shared platform to support and promote successful proposals. Depending on the nature of the proposal, this could be promoting initiatives and hosting events, or providing expertise and institutional support.

No financial contribution will be provided by the WTO or ICC to implement proposals.


Making A Proposal

Proposals are only open to the private sector and representative bodies and could take the form of, for example, awareness campaigns, competitions, or capacity building, training and mentoring programs.

They should:

  • be designed for delivery by the proposer and should not focus on WTO negotiations or proposed changes to WTO rules.
  • include the concept, aims, timelines and other information as appropriate
  • be no longer than 3 pages
  • be sent in Word or PDF format to

The call for proposals is open until the end of 2017. There is no limitation as to the number of proposals that may be selected. The selection of proposals will be carried out by the WTO Secretariat and the ICC and announced by the ICC and WTO on a rolling basis.

ICC Secretary General John Danilovich said:

“Trading internationally can provide a huge boost to MSME growth. We know that small businesses which export tend to grow more quickly, pay better salaries and create more jobs. But MSMEs still face significant barriers when it comes to accessing global markets. Small business owners often tell us that they lack the time and in-house expertise to deal with trade roadblocks – while many others aren’t aware of the potential opportunities that international trade can bring for their companies.

“Policy reforms have an important role to play in driving MSME exports. But we also think it’s time to take a different approach to these problems by leveraging the power of the private sector. This new initiative will seek to harness the knowledge, creativity and networks of the global business community to inspire and support MSME growth. We call on businesses and private sector organisations across the world to play their part as small business champions.”