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Talking Trade

Madi Sharma voices her concerns about the big trade agreements that drown out
the voice of the entrepreneur

Another one bites the dust! But at what cost? And who cares? If the deal had worked out, we could have been slightly better off. What am I talking about? TTIP of course! Or the EU- India trade agreement or any of the other negotiations which started and have come to nothing!

Bitter? Yes, I am bitter, because I am an entrepreneur running my small companies at my cost. I have to pay from the company purse to negotiate with potential suppliers and customers and the investment has to be justified. I do not have a team of negotiators, nor people to conduct debates and conferences, or have expensive lunches, business class flights and sightseeing visits to understand the context. If my negotiations do not succeed I have to justify the costs and move on to the next customer quickly because nobody is going to give me a free handout of money to keep my business afloat. I have to do business to exist.

Just existing for small businesses these days is a challenge. The rhetoric from the politicians is laughable - entrepreneurs are the backbone of the economy and we will support them, we will ‘think small first’. But the reality is quite the opposite. There is so little relevant support for entrepreneurs, limited financial resources, minimal affordable office space or travel allowances, even for trade events to promote products or services. And yet our politicians and decision makers have spent millions of tax payers hard-earned money on ‘talking trade’. 

My question: if the Governments had invested the same amount of money into our SMEs as they have wasted on the trade negotiations that have failed, how much growth could we have had? How many new jobs? How much innovation? Sadly this is not an evaluation governments make because they are so misguided by the big business interests! Oh, and if you are about to tell me that some of the trade deals have succeeded, yes they have! But again, has the investment in negotiations outweighed the benefits to SMEs? I don’t think so! I look forward to receiving the figures, if anyone can show me them!

Bitter yes, because we could really grow our home-grown businesses, support their development, help them create employment, provide skills and training, and invest in new technologies, research and innovation if there were more handholding, business-to-business support organisations such as EBN.

There is no accountability, nor responsibility for the wastage of funds when it comes to trade negotiations. As entrepreneurs we have to account for every cent, prioritising our staff and company growth over our own expenditures. Can this be said of the politicians who seek global wins for their empires which ultimately weaken economic, social and cultural rights in favour of trade? The voice of the small entrepreneur is rarely considered, despite the ‘SME chapter’. Maybe it is time to distribute the same funding euro-for-euro to entrepreneurs next time we start a trade negotiation and see where the real growth comes from.

Madi is an entrepreneur who founded and runs the Madi Group, a group of international private sector & not for profit companies and NGOs. The philosophy is to create innovative ideas tailored to local action which can achieve global impacts beneficial to a sustainable society. Madi is a public speaker internationally, particularly in the field of entrepreneurship, female entrepreneurship, diversity, gender balance and her passion for corporate social responsibility CSR. She presents and teaches in schools, universities and to forward thinking businesses and organisations. She is additionally a member of The European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels. Madi is the author of ‘Madi No Excuses!’ and a three-time TEDx speaker.

Published on 18-07-2017 00:00 by Madi Sharma. 82 page views

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