Small and Medium Enterprises
Why small and medium enterprises matter to APEC
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) account for more than 90 percent of all businesses in the APEC region and employ between 60 and 80 percent of the workforce. Employment leads to community wealth and stability and stable, confident communities contribute to a healthy macro-economic environment.
While APEC has always recognised the contributions of SMEs to their economies, they presently account for only about 30 percent of exports. In fact, this year, APEC Trade Ministers recognised that "not all segments of our societies have benefited from economic integration" and determined to ensure "that economic growth is more inclusive and that its benefits are spread more widely."
How APEC enables SMEs
The APEC SME Working Group (SMEWG) assists SMEs to become more competitive while seeking to contribute to a more open trade and investment environment. The group endorsed a strategic plan for 2013-2016 which will provide a roadmap to address critical issues and concerns pertaining to the growth of SMEs and micro enterprises (MEs) in the APEC region. The following are the priority areas for action:
- Building Management Capability, Entrepreneurship and Innovation;
- Financing; and
- Business Environment, Market Access and Internationalization.
APEC Digital Opportunity e-Commerce (ADOC) centres provide information and communication technology-related training to small and medium-sized businesses. APEC-IBIZ centres train Small Business Counsellors in a range of personal and professional skills so that they are able to support businesses from a broad knowledge base.
The role of the APEC SME Working Group
The SME Working Group also serves as a vehicle through which to mainstream SME considerations into the mandates and activities of other APEC groups. These include:
Institutional lending: SMEs traditionally face impediments in securing finance and their situation has deteriorated with the global financial crisis. APEC hosts an annual meeting of finance officials and private institutions which deal with SMEs, in order to concentrate efforts to support them.
Structural reform: Many SMEs are excluded from the global market place, unable to accommodate the added time and cost of conducting cross-border trade. APEC continues to implement structural reforms, aimed to improve the ease of international business. These include simplified customs procedures, anti-corruption measures and the protection of intellectual property to reduce risks to SMEs embarking on market expansion.
Telecommunications infrastructure: In 1990, an average of only 0.08 percent of those living in APEC economies used the internet. In the majority of economies, this figure had soared to over 44 percent by 2005 and APEC Telecommunication Ministers are now pursuing universal access to broadband internet by 2015.
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