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EU/US Transatlantic cooperation: Helping SMEs go international
Helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) tap into markets on the other side of the Atlantic was the central topic of the fourth European Union-United States SME Workshop, held in Washington, DC, on December 3 and 4, 2012. At the workshop, two business support networks – the EC’s Enterprise Europe Network and the US International Trade Administration – signed a Memorandum of Understanding on promoting cooperation. Specific areas for cooperation include the promotion of SME events and business partnering activities, participation in sector-specific or thematic seminars and the exchange of information on SME networking opportunities.
‘We must collaborate on how to help SMEs tap the full economic potential of the global market’, said Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director General of DG Enterprise and Industry. ‘If you are international, you grow faster, you increase employment faster and pay higher wages than non-exporting SME firms’.
The EU-US workshop is an extension of the objectives described in the Letter of Intent signed by European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani and United States Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank in May 2012.
EU/US exchange views on a modern SME policy
While the workshop touched on numerous topics, here are some highlights:
Using crowd funding to improve access to finance: Financing new investments is a joint problem for both US and EU SMEs. In this context, special focus was given to ‘crowd funding’, whereby investors undertake a collective effort in networking and pooling their resources via the Internet. Crowd funding is increasingly used for start-up company funding, inventions development and scientific research.
Initial talks were held in order to share views on how the crowd funding market needs to be regulated, and how crowd funding might affect so-called ‘business angels’ and formal venture capital.
- Improving information on product standards: Both sides are exploring the option of a Web-based, one-stop-shop that would inform SMEs about relevant standards for market access. This strategy proved successful with the EU-China standards web portal, CESIP. Reinforcing cooperation on intellectual property rights (IPR) was also discussed.
- Promoting entrepreneurship to incite more Europeans and Americans to become their own boss: Discussions highlighted existing programs targeting youth and women SMEs. The US provided an overview on its Start Young Program, and provided background information on its Women Business Center Program, which supports more than 50 female entrepreneurs.
- Determining the role and mapping of clusters: Policies that promote SMEs by providing them a joint infrastructure in clusters (ICT, research, financing and IPR) were also discussed. An example of this which has already experienced success is the European Cluster Alliance.
Scale of EU/US commercial and investment transatlantic contacts
In both the EU and US, SMEs account for more than 90 percent of the total number of businesses. Indeed, SMEs’ contributions to innovation, turnover and employment are striking. For example, two-thirds of new employment in the US in the last 15 years was generated by SMEs. Here are some other key facts:
- In goods and services: EU and US are one another’s biggest trading partners with more than €650 billion in annual trade, or €1.8 billion per day.
- EU exports to the US are three times higher than to China, and seven times higher than to Japan.
- 15 million jobs are linked to the transatlantic economy.
- Total US investments in the EU are three times higher than in all of Asia, while EU investment in the US is eight times higher than in India and China combined.
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