Working Papers

The Proposed Discourse in the WTO on the MSMEs Environment: A Case of South Africa

The Proposed Discourse in the WTO on the MSMEs Environment: A Case of South Africa

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20 Aug 2019

Author(s): Thembekile Mlangeni and Dr. Bulelwa Maphela

In an effort to unpack the discourse of the World trade Organisation (WTO) on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), this paper provides a background on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) business development policies in South Africa. An archival content analysis is used to examine if the WTO can push a narrative on MSMEs development. The paper discovers that the Marrakesh Agreement, which established the WTO, neither gives the institution a mandate nor a deliberative function to determine the trajectory of MSMEs. Countries often struggle to define the strata of MSMEs in general, hence it should be expected that a discussion on MSMEs cannot be a blanket discussion that may provide broad solutions and strategies for all members at all levels of development.

The paper finds that this is mostly due to country specific challenges, which vary according to historical economic engagements – since the legacy of MSMEs is embedded in their historical disparities. Therefore, solutions crafted at a global or multilateral level may not be suitable for specific MSMEs’ challenges experienced in developing countries. The WTO cannot respond adequately to these challenges through its mandate and its rule-making functions.

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