Posted on October 20, 2015

His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al-Thani (pictured), Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the State of Qatar, today opened the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) in Doha, Qatar. More than 700 people from 92 countries are attending the event, including 26 least-developed countries, which is organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and hosted by the Ministry of Economy and Commerce of the State of Qatar through the Qatar Development Bank (QDB).

In his speech, Prime Minister Abdullah Bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani told the audience that the sustainability of international trade flows must go hand-in-hand with significant investment efforts, as well as innovative policies and appropriate institutional arrangements. ‘We fully realize that the future welfare of our people depends on Qatar’s access to competitive markets, as SMEs represent the vanguard of our exports. It is in this sense that we embrace world markets and welcome discussions on innovation and investment as guiding principles of our public policy that contribute to the development of the private sector, and the SME sector, specifically,’ he said.

ITC Executive Director Arancha González said that more open trade and investment – and especially more competitive small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – can help the world generate sustainable and inclusive growth and reach the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which were agreed by world leaders at the United Nations last month. ‘Sustainable, because growth needs to be compatible with our planet; and inclusive because growth must work for all, including for youth and women,’ she said.  ‘This must be growth anchored in SMEs, which represent 90% of all businesses worldwide and which generate seven of every ten jobs.’

‘Supporting SMEs to internationalize and helping them connect to markets or tap into value chains are key to fostering more dynamic and innovative economies and ensuring growth is sustained and sustainable,’ she said. His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed Bin Jassim Al Thani, Minister of Economy and Commerce, said that Qatar has embarked on a path towards more sustainable growth, diversifying the economy away from hydrocarbons. He pointed out that the non-hydrocarbon sector now accounts for more than 50% of the country’s economy. ‘We need to have a solid and sustainable export-oriented private sector,’ said Sheikh Ahmed Bin Jassim Al Thani. ‘Achieving this will greatly reduce our economy’s inherent exposure to international markets, an area that we now actively manage both at the micro as well as the economy-wide level.’

Abdulaziz Bin Nasser Al Khalifa, CEO of QDB, said: ‘For Qatar, it is an honour to host WEDF, which has become a leading platform for policymakers to talk and do business. It is also recognition of Qatar as a bridge, linking continents together through trade. The forum will underscore the importance of opening international markets before SMEs, which is a core interest of what we do at QDB. WEDF provides a perfect podium to exchange expertise and discuss the latest in financing and support of SMEs. More than 50 Qatari SMEs will be discussing business with international exporters.’

Sustainable trade: Innovate, invest, internationalize’ is the theme of this year’s WEDF, which comes on the heels of the adoption by world leaders of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. This new global agenda seeks to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 while stimulating socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth. It specifically calls for encouraging the growth of SME to boost job creation and economic opportunities for all.

Speakers in Doha will address the unique challenges and opportunities faced by SMEs in developing countries and economies in transition. They will point to how these businesses, which account for the bulk of employment around the world, can be empowered to use international trade and investment to drive growth and job creation. The two-day event will consist of four plenary sessions and four parallel breakout sessions, alongside structured and informal B2B meetings aimed at enabling participating SMEs to meet potential customers, suppliers, and investors.