On 6 May 2021, the OECD held the second virtual working group on monitoring SME export promotion policies in Uzbekistan, discussing branding and marketing strategies to support the internationalisation of Uzbek SMEs.
The working group was an opportunity to discuss progress made by Uzbekistan since the 2017 OECD peer review of its export promotion efforts, and assessments of new priorities with a focus on opportunities and challenges for SME exporters under the GSP+ scheme. The event was organised as part of the OECD Policy Component of the EU Central Asia Invest initiative and brought together experts from the OECD, the European Union, and Poland with a number of stakeholders, from the public and private sector in Uzbekistan.
Opening the session, Mr Oybek Elmuratov, Deputy Director of the Investment Promotion Agency, emphasised the relevance of OECD work in supporting the government’s reform agenda. He stressed that internationalisation of SMEs was a top priority for the country, and benefits from the recommendations formulated as part of the peer-review and monitoring exercise, as well as the recent OECD analysis of the legal environment for business. Mr François Bégeot, Head of Co-operation in the EU Delegation to Uzbekistan, praised the efforts to raise SME exports in recent years and noted that the implementation of the EPCA agreement, and Uzbekistan’s adherence to GSP+ are an acknowledgment of these, and will be beneficial to the country’s WTO accession ambitions.
Ms Amélie Schurich-Rey, Economist and Policy Analyst in the OECD Eurasia Division, presented and discussed with the audience an assessment of how recommendations for consulting and marketing services for exporting SMEs had been implemented. Ms Schurich-Rey drew attention to the successful development of a supportive institutional environment for export promotion over recent years. Mr Murod Rakhimov, Head of Division at the Export Promotion Agency of Uzbekistan, complemented the OECD presentation with an overview of the agencies’ programmes to support exporting SMEs.
Ms Kristiyana Kalcheva, Policy Officer from DG Trade at the European Commission, gave an overview of the GSP+ scheme, and discussed what Uzbek SMEs could do to make full use of its benefits. Mr Christophe Fontaine, International Relations Officer from DG TAXUD at the Commission then discussed rules of origin and certification under the Registered Exporter system (REX). Both emphasised that Uzbek exporters have been using benefits granted under the standard GSP scheme, which may point to high uptake of GSP+ in the years ahead.
Complementing these presentations, Mr Michal Polanski, Director of the Entrepreneurship Support Department, and Ms Aleksandra Wadoswka, Head of International Projects Unit, at the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development shared their agency’s experience in developing non-financial instruments to support the internationalisation of SMEs. They drew attention to the importance of a comprehensive branding and marketing toolbox to support internationalisation of SMEs.
Mr Elmuratov and Mr Bégeot offered closing remarks, thanking the EU and the OECD carrying out this project, which contributes to the country’s recovery and growth efforts.