SMEs must "benefit from the ASEAN Economic Community"

Indonesia's Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, says the link between FDI flows and small and medium enterprise (SMEs) is an important part of the vision to create an inclusive and equitable ASEAN. "SMEs have also been proven to be resilient and dynamic. We need to ensure that they benefit from the ASEAN Economic Community, she said at the ASEAN Economic Ministers Plenary Meeting in Manado, Indonesia.

According to ASEAN Secretariat data, SMEs generate between 50-95% of employment, make up 30-53% of the total GDP and 19-31% of total exports in ASEAN. More than 96% of business units in ASEAN are SMEs and they account for 99% of business units in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.

Philippine's Department of Trade and Industry Seretary, Gregory Domingo, says ASEAN officials and technical work groups should consider reducing or revising the Rules of Origin (ROO) requirements - the criteria to determine where a product is made - for SME export transactions.

He says SME promotion will be the priority of the Philippine's international trade agreements with a focus on easing processes for tariff treatment, adding that the DTI is “exploring all avenues to make it easier for SMEs to become successful exporters."

Last year the department launched the Doing Business in Free Trade Areas - a business education program to promote the use of the country’s preferential trade agreements - benefiting almost 2,000 businesses in 11 cities.

ASEAN SMEs will also be assisted to enter the Chinese market. Indonesia's Deputy Trade Minister, Mahendra Siregar, reports that China`s Minister of Commerce, Chen Deming, "stated his country`s willingness to assist SMEs from ASEAN member states to enter China`s market. China`s market is highly competitive and therefore facilitation from the government will be useful," he said.

ASEAN is expected to establish an ASEAN SMEs Advisory Board, development of an ASEAN SMEs Business Portal, the staging of an ASEAN SMEs Trade Fair and an awareness campaign on the benefits of FTA for SMEs.