A new online tool has been launched to give small business owners readily accessible information on the trading regulations of their target export market.
By helping small and micro firms navigate cross-border tax and trade rules, it is hoped the Global Trade Helpdesk will act as a one-stop shop for practical information and data that can be used to support export strategies.
Still in its beta phase, the online portal was unveiled by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the United Nations Conference on Trade (UNCTAD) at the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The online portal will allow small business owners seeking new export markets to look at data on applicable tariffs and taxes, relevant health and safety standards, import and export compliance procedures, and existing trade agreements.
Information will be added to the portal over the next three years to grow its database, which is expected to be fully operational by 2020.
According to director general of the WTO, Roberto Azevedo, access of data will open up the global marketplace for entrepreneurs.
“For a small business, easy access to the right information can make the world of difference,” he said.
“With it, you can trade with the global marketplace. Without it, the challenges and costs of trading can be too high. This new helpdesk will provide all the information you need in one place, free of charge, accessible to all. It promises to be a big step forward in making trade more inclusive. That’s something for us all to celebrate.”
ITC director, Arancha González was enthusiastic about the helpdesk’s potential in creating more export opportunities for small business owners.
“The Global Trade Helpdesk is about moving from making trade possible to making it happen,” she said.
“The portal turns trade data into practical, usable intelligence and will be an excellent tool to better identify and reduce obstacles to trade. Ultimately it will increase transparency of data, improve coherence and help [small firms] to navigate the procedures needed to break into foreign markets and grow through trade.”
Supporting development of the tool, the ITC surveyed 20,000 business owners in 38 developing countries to find that a lack of transparency was one of the biggest obstacles to international trading for small firms.
UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi, said the helpdesk was “an innovative tool using data to tackle obstacles to inclusion”.
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