In a COVID-19- impacted world, policies and market conditions are constantly evolving. Economic lockdowns are resulting in falling demand in traditional markets, supply chain disruptions, and unprecedented operational challenges for firms across the globe.
These challenges have been felt particularly by SMEs, who might not have the financial or structural security that bigger companies do. According to the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) COVID-19 Business survey, two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises reported being strongly impacted by the crisis – compared to 40% of larger firms. The pinch was felt primarily through a decrease in sales revenue – and one in three SMEs felt their business was at risk of shutting down permanently in the coming months1.
What are some of the actions businesses can take in the face of these unprecedented challenges? How can they prepare themselves to be resilient in this rapidly evolving global context? According to a recent statement by the International Chamber of Commerce, access to clear information about changing trade policies and trade information is one of the crucial elements2.
That means businesses need to be proactive and monitor changing conditions; both in terms of temporary restrictions put in place by governments in response to the pandemic, and comparing opportunities for market diversification, which might help spread the risks associated with shutdowns and pandemic responses in traditional markets.
To do so, they need to identify potential import markets, consult the latest trade statistics, and access tariffs and relevant market access conditions. This is especially pertinent as the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting markets to different degrees and at different times.
Designed with the needs of SMEs in mind, the Global Trade Helpdesk – accessible at www.GlobalTradeHelpDesk.org – simplifies market research for businesses of all sizes through a single access to crucial trade and business information.
This allows businesses to stay updated on changing trade policies in response to COVID-19, identify and compare export opportunities, compare market access conditions, and connect with buyers, trade finance providers and other partners to put their export plans into action. It integrates key sources of trade data from partner agencies including the WTO, ITC, UNCTAD, World Bank Group, IADB, FAO, WCO, WIPO, AfDB, ICC as well as UNIDO, and makes this information available free of charge through a user-friendly interface! The platform provides information in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian.
Twill has been created to support SMEs with challenges like these and, together with Maersk, we have partnered with the International Trade Centre to support initiatives such as the Global Trade Helpdesk.
Staying alert, responding to sudden policy changes and shifting market conditions will become a part of daily life for SMEs for the foreseeable future. To navigate these uncharted waters, SMEs can stay on top of the game by making maximum use of timely and relevant information through Global Trade Helpdesk.