By International Trade Center News
EU-funded project to improve competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises in Azerbaijan and other Eastern Partnership countries.
(Baku/Geneva) – A project to boost the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Azerbaijan and connect them to global value chains was today launched in Baku. The ‘Eastern Partnership: Ready to Trade – an EU4Business Initiative’ is a three-year project and marks a new collaboration between the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Delegation of the European Union to Azerbaijan and International Trade Centre (ITC).
To kick off the project activities a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in Baku by Rufat Mammadov, President of the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AzPromo), and ITC Executive Director Arancha González.
Currently, Azerbaijan’s exports are highly dependent on oil and gas, which account for more than 87% of total exports volume. To reduce its exposure to fluctuating commodity prices, diversification of the export sector is a top priority for the Azerbaijani government. Similarly, Azerbaijani SMEs account for only 5.4% of the country’s total exports in 2013, suggesting an unrealized potential from greater participation in international trade.
The Ready to Trade project will help companies target and access foreign markets, with a special focus on the European Union. Azerbaijani SMEs will receive assistance and technical support in producing value-added goods in accordance with international and EU market requirements. The project will also connect producers in international markets and help strengthen the capacity of local business support organizations to improve services provided to SMEs.
Speaking at the launch of the project, Mr. Sahil Babayev, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Minister of Economy, said: ‘In efforts to diversify its economy, Azerbaijan is keen to improve export competitiveness of small and medium sized enterprises and strengthen cooperation with the European Union. The new ITC project is very timely and welcome as it will help us move forward on both strategic objectives’.
The Head of EU Delegation to Azerbaijan, Ms. Malena Mard said: 'This project will help SME from Eastern Partnership countries integrate into domestic and global value chains and access new markets with a focus on the European Union. The EU has traditionally supported Azerbaijan in regional and rural development by allocating substantial cooperation funds to support business-enabling environment. This initiative in support of SME's will help implement priority areas of the Strategic Roadmap of the Republic of Azerbaijan signed by the President on 6 December 2016.'
Ms. González said: ‘ITC is pleased to contribute to a greater economic integration between Eastern Partnership countries and the EU. Through the Ready to Trade project we will help ensure momentum for the broader EU4Business initiative and, above all, ensure that Azerbaijani SMEs are enabled to produce more competitive products, allowing them to connect with international buyers.’
Mr. Mammadov said: ‘We are very happy to be given this opportunity to cooperate with ITC and the EU in achieving one of our primary goals: export diversification and SME development. I am convinced that with such strong support we will achieve real results in the near future.
As part of the project's six-month inception phase, ITC will select target priority sectors and groups, and tailor the methodological approach to suit the evolving economic conditions in Azerbaijan. ITC will also develop a detailed project roadmap and work plans based on value-chain analysis and public-private consultations to customize the project activities.
ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development. For more information, visit www.intracen.org. Follow ITC on Twitter: @ITCnews
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