What should there be in a SME TTIP chapter?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

SMEs will benefit from TTIP if their particularities will be acknowledged. [mehr demokratie/Flickr]

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has the potential to benefit small and medium enterprises (SMEs) considerably if it is tailored to their real needs, writes Arnaldo Abruzzini .  

Arnaldo Abruzzini has been the Secretary-General of Eurochambres since 1999.

Cindy Miller, President of UPS Europe, recently made the case on this site for trade to be made easier, faster and less expensive for SMEs by slashing tariffs and simplifying customs procedures.  This is a valid point, yet there is more to it in my view.

When we talk about SMEs in TTIP, we have to differentiate between provisions in the future agreement that are so to say pure “trade” provisions, and others which are more of a “trade-supporting” nature.

The latter certainly includes the elimination of tariffs, the simplification of customs procedures, or an overall reduction of regulatory barriers.  But this also has to mean making our rules of origin easier, so that all companies can benefit from zero duties, not just transnational.  This also has to mean facilitating the movement of workers in areas crucial to SMEs, for instance by making it easier for them to send a representative to the US, or by transferring technicians for installation works, or setting up machineries.

Yet beyond the “pure trade” side of the future agreement, there is another area of high interest for small companies, which is the designated SME chapter in TTIP.

For SMEs, such a chapter can be a real multiplier for the entire set of benefits that will be created throughout the agreement, provided we can facilitate ways for SMEs to find and gain more knowledge about their counterparts, as well as creating meaningful and targeted information points helping SMEs achieve regulatory compliance on all levels of government.

We should make no mistake. SMEs need targeted information, and this should not be easily dismissed or put off as not being the most “ground-breaking” suggestion, as stated by MEP Reinhard Bütikofer, from the Greens.

A single product-specific online platform is vital in order for SMEs to actually utilise the potential gains from TTIP, 80% of which come from cutting costs imposed by bureaucracy and regulations.

If I am a European SME, where am I supposed to find tailor-made information on how to sell my products on the US market?

Information currently available is not targeted enough, dispersed, therefore making it imperative for both sides to create such strategic points of intelligence.  This way, SMEs can easily consult how to access, and operate within, the U.S. and EU markets, including navigating through the maze of federal and sub-federal regulations, standards and other regulatory compliance requirements.

Tackling this bottleneck to more market access is precisely where a trade-supporting SME chapter can make a real difference

As negotiators are currently outlining the framework and ambition of an SME chapter, it is crucial that the needs of SMEs are properly taken into account, so that they can also be prime beneficiaries of the €187 billion increase in overall trade between the EU and the U.S. that is predicted as a result of TTIP.

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