Three questions to Dr. Eric Schweitzer
As president of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK), you represent more than three million entrepreneurs. In your opinion, which challenges do SMEs face in global competition?
The recent years were marked by political and economic crises and we observe a global increase in protectionism in the form of national trade barriers. These cause harmful costs of legal advice and extended bureaucratic processes for all companies but create heavy burdens especially for SMEs.
There will be a Working Group for SMEs. What needs to be done to promote SMEs globally?
The promotion of SMEs has to start nationally and regionally. Debureaucratization, investments in a well-functioning infrastructure, and the support of digitalization on the one hand, and the promotion of start-up enterprises on the other, are potent ingredients. Economic reforms need to be directed towards an SME-friendly business environment that is good for SMEs and for all other companies. This includes better access to various sources of funding, which is crucial for international activities. Further, the education and supply of skilled workers is the basis of growth. In Germany, chambers and business associations serve as a first point of contact regarding these necessities and support.
Regarding future business opportunities, what do you expect from the B20 presidency?
We expect to find common ground in the international economic community on the issues of global protectionist tendencies and the creation of a company-friendly international environment. Even more importantly, words have to be followed by actions. A coordinated communication strategy – not only on the national level – for the promotion of SMEs is the key. Current and future challenges like climate change, urbanization, and digitalization can only be solved at the international level in collaboration between governments, business, and civil society.