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“Internationalisation of European SMEs – Taking Stock and Moving Ahead” is the third joint report produced by the National Promotional Institutions of the four largest economies of the Euro Area: BPI France, CDP, ICO and KfW. It is also the second time the British Business Bank joined the working group and the Business Development Bank of Canada contributed with insights
A report on internationalisation of small and medium enterprises ideally integrates the series of analyses on European SMEs after the first study on investments and innovation and the second one on venture capital.
In 2016, the European Union continues to be the largest exporter in the world. With exports of goods and services equal to 6.8 trillion euros, it has a 35% share of the world market - (in comparison NAFTA countries - including the USA, Canada and Mexico – make up for 15% of the market). Intra-EU exports accounted for 60% of the total EU exports. A sign that the European single market - recording strong growth over the past two years – is of utmost importance.
European SMEs account for up to 40 % of exports and 50 % of imports. Yet, their role in international trade falls short of their role for domestic markets, where they generate far more than 50 % of value added and provide two out of three jobs. Less than 30 % of all SMEs export, mostly to other EU countries, and less than 3 % invest abroad. Despite the positive impact internationalization can have on productivity, growth and likelihood of survival, only a limited fraction of those SMEs currently inactive on global markets are considering exporting or importing in the future.
Key barriers to internationalisation include lack of information about foreign markets, difficulties in finding business partners abroad, burdensome administrative procedures and limited access to credit. National promotional institutions such as Bpifrance, KfW, CDP, ICO and the British Business Bank already play a key role in fostering SMEs’ internationalisation.
Unlike SMEs in most EU countries, Italian SMEs make up the lion’s share in trading volumes as they export and import significantly more than large enterprises. Italian non-exporting SMEs show a low propensity to do business abroad, despite perceiving export barriers as relatively easy to overcome. The CDP Group supports the internationalisation of Italian SMEs not only by financing their operations but also by fostering the competitiveness of the entire system, promoting innovation and digitalisation and increasing SMEs’ ability to compete on global markets. Together with SACE and Simest , CDP established the “Italian Export and Internationalisation Hub” in 2016, which serves as the single access point to the entire range of financial instruments and services previously provided by the three companies separately.
An appropriate dimensional uplift of Italian SMEs, along with an increase in the number of exporting SMEs, would boost the Italian economy and strengthen its sustainable competitiveness.