EC launches new portal to support trade by small businesses

Access2Markets includes explanations, tutorials and FAQs to help SMEs analyse the rules and benefits of trade with each of the bloc’s trading partners

Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis

The European Commission has launched this week Access2Markets online portal to help small and medium-sized firms trade beyond the EU’s borders. The new portal responds to requests from stakeholders to better explain trade agreements and help companies ensure their products are eligible for duty discounts. It will serve both companies that already trade internationally and those that are only starting to explore opportunities in foreign markets.

The new portal was presented at a high-level, virtual event, 'The road to recovery – empowering small businesses to trade internationally', hosted by Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and attended by some 600 representatives of small and medium-sized companies.

“We need to help our companies, in particular our SMEs, to derive maximum benefit from our trade agreements. This is why we have created this new portal to help our smaller companies navigate the world of international trade. This one-stop-shop will help European firms to make the most of the EU’s network of trade agreements and get the best access to the markets, products and inputs they need to grow and to stay competitive,” Dombrovskis said.

The European Union has a large network of trade agreements with over 70 countries and regions and is currently negotiating a raft of new deals. Simultaneously, small businesses represent 88% of all EU exporters. Hence, Access2Markets breaks the complex set of rules down into practical information so that smaller firms can have access to relevant information more easily. Concretely, Access2Markets delivers the trading conditions to import goods to the EU and to export goods to over 120 foreign markets.

“Small businesses are vital to our economy that thrives on the goods and services they provide,” said Véronique Willems, secretary-general of the European association of small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEunited.

“SMEunited is pleased to see the launch of the Access2Markets portal. This portal will help small and medium-sized enterprises overcome obstacles to tapping the global market. Providing them with better access to information that is tailored to their needs will be to the benefit of all Europeans,” she added.

The new Access2Markets portal also includes explanations, tutorials and FAQs to help new as well as experienced traders analyse the benefits of trade with each of the EU’s trading partners. It provides an overview of EU laws on products and services, as well as contact details for customs and other public authorities in EU member states and in the EU’s trading partners. Businesses can also use the portal to contact DG TRADE to report trade barriers they encounter.

In the meantime, Access2Markets’ self-assessment tool, ROSA, provides special assistance on the rules that define the ‘economic nationality’ of a product, known as ‘rules of origin’. These are tailor-made in every trade deal, making sure that sensitive market sectors are protected and that companies can claim reduced or eliminated customs duties as set in the agreement. Companies can also find information on how trade agreements regulate trade in services or on the conditions to invest, or take part in public calls for tenders in a foreign market.

Every product traded internationally has a code that determines what import duties and national or local taxes need to be paid. On Access2Markets, businesses can find not only the code but also what duties they need to pay in each jurisdiction. The portal’s My Trade Assistant tool enables businesses to look up information on duties, taxes, product rules and requirements on a product-by-product basis for each market.

The portal is also optimised for use on smartphones and tablets. It includes a host of additional user-friendly functions to help businessmen and women get the most out of the EU’s trade agreements. And, of course, it is completely free of charge.

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