ABAC initiatives underway to assist small and medium sized businesses in the Asia-Pacific

Thursday, August 20, 2015

By Cassandra Oaten

The third APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Meeting was hosted by Australia in Melbourne on 10-13 August 2015. ABAC is a platform for dialogue where top business representatives from each of the 21 APEC economies has the opportunity to share with Leaders, initiatives that will improve business environments in the region.

ABAC is focused on expediting economic growth, and is successfully unpegged to the volume of influential business voices in the region. As an outcome ABAC is committed to the agenda of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with one of its five working group solely focused to the concerns of this group which make up the majority of enterprise in the region and who are at the forefront of innovation in many sectors.

The Philippines have used their year as APEC Chair to focus on the needs of small businesses as part of their theme of ‘building inclusive economies, building a better world’ with the priority of ‘strengthening and facilitating MSMEs entry into global markets’.

The Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Working Group (SMMEEWG) strives to ensure that efforts remain pertinent and responsive to the needs of MSMEs to reduce restrictive practices and regulations. This working group has committed their support to reducing barriers in global value chains (GVC), continuing work on the Asia-Pacific Open Innovation Platform (AP-OIP) and is underway with research of the inhibitive factors facing the e-commerce sector for current MSMEs.

The Philippines led, ‘Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs’ continues to build on the work done by APEC on regional integration and trade facilitation for small businesses. This proposal calls for a number of practical interventions that APEC member-economies can implement to provide MSMEs more opportunities to integrate into global or regional trade.

The Agenda includes action points to streamline current procedures and documentation requirements for companies engaged in international trade such as rules of origin (ROO) procedures, compliance with customs-related rules, widening existing programs to include MSMEs such as the Authorized Economic Operators (AEO) and trusted trader programs (TTP). The Agenda also will assist MSMEs to access the benefits of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) and tools to access up to date information on export and import procedures and requirements. 

The Philippines received support for this Agenda earlier during the year in Boracay during the 2nd APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM2) and Related Meetings held in May. Documents and speeches that came out of these meetings can be accessed here. In 2016, the Philippines will hand over their Chairmanship to Peru who have indicated that they would like to continue the work of the Boracay Action Agenda. Malaysia, Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has also publicized its support of the Agenda.