BRUSSELS: A survey of more than 8,000 small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) across Europe suggests they are reluctant to export due to a combination of perceived risk, bureaucracy and ignorance.
The UPS-sponsored study covered SMEs from Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Poland, and Belgium in the automotive, healthcare, high tech, industrial and retail sectors.
According to the research, Italy, Germany, and France have the largest number of exporting SMEs, while those in Belgium, the UK and the Netherlands are the most sophisticated in reaching markets beyond the EU.
UPS says the vast majority of shipments sent by the SMEs are destined for domestic customers and other countries within the EU.
"There is huge potential for European SMEs to export outside the European Union," said Cindy Miller, president, UPS Europe. "In a competitive global business climate, SMEs have to take advantage of these opportunities to expand their customer base abroad, increase their revenues, and create sustained growth."
According to the survey, 51 - 81 percent of SMEs overall think their export volume will remain static over the next 12 months. Those in Britain and Germany are more optimistic than in other countries with more than 40 percent expecting to increase exports by mid-2015.
Significantly, the survey found that many exporters have little knowledge of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that is designed to remove tariff barriers between the EU and U.S.
Awareness and understanding of the agreement by SMEs averaged 21 percent or less across the seven markets. Germany had the highest level at 41 percent.
"There is a real need to help SMEs on both sides of the Atlantic understand the benefits of the TTIP," added Miller. "Small businesses are convinced that larger businesses will benefit most from the TTIP, and they're not fully aware of the benefit this agreement could bring."