Fabian Demicoli

Commission Tries To Help SMEs Take On The World

The European Commission will very soon launch its most concerted attempt to date to help small and medium-sized enterprises to sell their goods and services outside the European Union. The Commission's strategy for helping SMEs break into foreign markets is to be adopted by the college of commissioners next week (9 November). 


The strategy, entitled "Small business, big world", will be put forward by Antonio Tajani, the European commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship, whose department has drafted it, together with the Commission's department for trade.

Tajani will propose to step up the provision of free business-support services to European SMEs in important non-EU markets. In addition to existing support in China and India, the Commission is considering launching business-support services in Brazil, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Ukraine.

Such services will be based on a needs assessment in each foreign market, which is supposed to identify the main obstacles facing European SMEs and the existing support structures, to avoid any duplication of effort.

A model for the approach are the EU business centres in China and India, which were set up after adoption of the EU's Small Business Act in 2008. They provide advice to EU firms on market access, protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), standards and regulations, and other issues that are relevant for European businesses.

In China, the Commission has also been funding a help-desk on questions of IPR, with offices in Bejing and seven other cities. IPR protection is a priority concern of European businesses in China.

A survey by the Commission, published last year in preparation for the strategy, showed that just one-quarter of SMEs in the EU sell their products beyond their national frontiers, and only 13% export to markets outside the EU.

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