World Trade Board launches plan to empower SMEs through trade and finance

‘Financial Inclusion in Trade Roadmap’ provides a holistic framework for public and private sector collaboration to accelerate change


Dubai, UAE – 27 March 2023 – The World Trade Board has today opened consultation on a major new framework to increase access to trade finance for MSMEs. Developed with contributions from major industry bodies and international stakeholders, the Financial Inclusion in Trade Roadmap identifies five key areas where coordinated action can make a significant impact. Crucially, the Roadmap aims to accelerate the pace of change by providing a holistic framework for public and private sector collaboration.

MSMEs make up around 90% of businesses globally, but accounted for just 23% of applications for trade finance in 2020. Despite their low representation, these smaller firms made up 40% of rejected trade finance applications. This mismatch between demand for and supply of trade financing, known as the trade finance gap, is growing rapidly – from an estimated $1.5 trillion in 2018 to $2 trillion in 2022, and shows no signs of slowing.

Michael Vrontamitis, Deputy Chair of the World Trade Board, said: “Difficulty accessing finance means MSMEs are greatly under-represented in global trade. Many good ideas to increase financial inclusion have been put into action, but to accelerate progress we need to harness the knowledge and technology available to us into collective action. Our framework aligns diverse stakeholders towards a common vision, with clear lines of responsibility in a results-driven approach. We now invite the industry to provide feedback that will improve the Roadmap, then partner with us on implementation.”

Writing in the Roadmap’s foreword, Pascal Lamy, Coordinator of the Jacques Delors Think Tanks, President of the Paris Peace Forum and Strategic Advisor to the World Trade Board, notes: “When it comes to the gaps in the provision of trade finance, no commercial bank or multilateral institution can address these [challenges] on their own. They need to find new ways of partnering with each other, with governments and with other innovative organisations to deliver their expertise.” To this end, the Financial Inclusion in Trade Roadmap suggests actions in five key areas:

Pillar 1: Digital infrastructure
Digital identities: Accelerate the adoption of digital identities, such as the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) and Decentralised Identifiers, through mandated utilisation in the financial services sector.

Pillar 2: Legal/Regulatory infrastructure
Support the adoption of, or alignment of legal frameworks with, UNIDROIT’s Factoring Model Law (FML), expected to be released in Q3 2023 and its broader implications and facilitate adoption of efficient regulatory regimes.

Pillar 3: Data infrastructure
Gain access to trade receivables-related data points to update traditional credit-decisioning methods.

Pillar 4: Technical assistance
Support technical learning amongst financial institutions and MSMEs on matters related to legal, digital and data infrastructure.

Pillar 5: New funding sources
Develop an infrastructure to encourage investment in credible MSME trade finance assets.

Simon Paris, Chair of the World Trade Board and CEO of Finastra, added: “MSMEs are the fuel of our national economies and the lifeblood of their communities. Together as an industry, I’m sure we have the knowledge, expertise and technology to address the various challenges in a coordinated, collaborative way and help redefine finance for good. This roadmap is a major step towards that goal and we look forward to working with industry further to hasten our progress towards it.”

Before the Roadmap is made final, The World Trade Board invites comments and feedback from all stakeholders to help ensure the guidance can be implemented as broadly as possible. The Financial Inclusion in Trade Roadmap can be found at the World Trade Symposium website and feedback should be sent to

The Financial Inclusion in Trade Roadmap has been developed in collaboration with global organizations with expertise across industries. Key contributors include the International Chamber of Commerce UK (ICC UK), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), BAFT (Bankers Association for Finance and Trade), the International Trade and Forfaiting Association (ITFA) and FCI.

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