SMEs and entrepreneurship

OECD-APEC Global Conference on “Removing Barriers to SME Access to International Markets”


Athens, Greece, 6-8 November 2006

To date, there has been little research to find out the amount of impediments to SME globalisation and their subsequent economic impact, for either OECD member countries or non member economies. However, as highlighted in the 2004 Istanbul Ministerial Declaration, there is a need to remove unnecessary barriers to SME access to international markets.

The Conference...

... was organised in co-operation with the APEC Secretariat and the Hellenic Ministry of Development. The joint OECD WPSME and APEC SMEWG study Removing Barriers to SME Access to International Markets was presented at the Conference as the background report and set the context of the discussion. The study is based on the findings of two original surveys carried out by the WPSME and APEC SMEWG between January and September 2006:  the Member Policy Makers Survey and the Survey of SMEs’ Perceptions of Barriers to Access to International Markets.

The Conference was officially opened by Mr. Dimitris Sioufas, Minister of Development (Greece) who had invited other Ministers such as Mr. Ali Coskun, Minister of Industry and Trade (Turkey) and Mr. Truong Van Doan, First Vice-Minister of Planning and Investment (Vietnam), to join him. The Conference brought together members of the international business community, including SMEs, organisations involved in the facilitation of world trade, and senior government representatives from members of the OECD and APEC as well as non-member economies. Discussion focused on factors and policies to overcome barriers to SME access to international markets and facilitate SME internationalisation.

OECD Deputy Secretary-General Richard Hecklinger and Greek Minister of Economy and Finance Georgios Alogoskoufis closed the conference that, over 3 days, was attended by about 500 participants from 65 countries and several international organisations.

The keynote report...

... stressed that SMEs face many barriers to their internationalisation and found that there is close agreement between SMEs and policy makers about the key barriers that hampers SMEs access to international markets. In particular, these barriers include:

  • Shortage of working capital to finance exports.
  • Identifying foreign business opportunities.
  • Limited information to locate and analyse markets.
  • Inability to contact potential overseas customers. 

Please click here for the report's Executive Summary (part of a forthcoming publication).

Two important outputs of the Conference were:

  • The adoption by participants of the Athens Action Plan that provides a number of concrete recommendations to governments and other stakeholders to reduce barriers for SMEs about to or already engaged in internationalisation. The Athens Action Plan also recommends governments to establish evaluation frameworks for their programmes and constantly keep under review the support schemes they provide for SMEs to this end.
  • BIAC launched a private sector initiative, the "BIAC-OECD Initiative to Facilitate SME Access to International Markets", to facilitate SME access to international markets. This was in support of a proposal made by Mr. Dimitris Sioufas, Minister of Development for Greece, to the OECD for promoting co-operation between MNEs and SMEs. The main tool of this initiative will be the creation of an SME Web Portal to improve information flows to SMEs and provide a platform for possible cooperation between MNEs and SMEs.

For further information, please contact the OECD Secretariat at