Small and Medium Enterprises
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Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the engines of growth and innovation in the APEC region. SMEs account for over 97 percent of all enterprises and employ over half of the workforce across APEC economies. SMEs contribute significantly to economic growth, with SMEs' share of GDP ranging from 20 percent to 50 percent in the majority of APEC economies. However, they only account for 35 percent or less of the direct exports. APEC’s Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG) therefore works to encourage the development of SMEs and to build their capacity to engage in international trade.

First established in February 1995 as the Ad Hoc Policy Level Group on SMEs' (PLGSME), the objective was to assist SMEs improve their competitiveness and to facilitate a more open trade and investment environment. In 2000, the group was renamed the SMEWG and granted permanent status.

The SMEWG works towards the achievement of the Bogor Goals by fostering an enabling business environment for SMEs to grow and develop into export-ready firms.

A meeting of ministers responsible for SMEs has been held annually since 1994. In August 2012, the Ministers, at their 19th Meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia endorsed the SMEWG Strategic Plan for 2013-2016 which provided a roadmap to address critical issues pertaining to the growth of SMEs and micro enterprises (MEs) in the APEC region, with the following priority areas for action:

1. Building Management Capability, Entrepreneurship and Innovation

2. Financing

3. Business Environment, Market Access and Internationalization.

The SMEWG collaborates with other APEC fora, in particular the Economic Committee (EC), the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC),  APEC Emergency-Preparedness Working Group (EPWG) and APEC's Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE).

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In 2013, the SME Working Group completed 11 projects covering all Strategic Plan priorities and objectives, provided 13 workshops, seminars and trainings for several hundred of trainers, government officials and SMEs. 13 reports, papers, databases and other deliverables have been made available to APEC economies in 2013-2014, making this group one of the most active groups under the SOM Steering Committee for Economic and Technical Cooperation.

The 38th Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG) Meeting held in Taichung, Chinese Taipei, 26 – 27 March 2014 reviewed activities across three priorities of the period 2013 - 2016: (1) Building management capacity, entrepreneurship and innovation, (2) Finance, (3) Business environment, market access and internationalization. The Working Group further discussed its 2014 Work Plan in order to address issues highlighted by APEC Leaders and Ministers, including financial literacy and inclusion, information communications technology and SMEs, and public-private partnership.

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1. Building Management Capability, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation

APEC Start-up Accelerator Initiative (Chinese Taipei)

The APEC Start-up Accelerator Leadership Summit 2013, the Intel APEC Challenge 2013 and APEC Accelerator Network Forum (March 2014) helped nurture entrepreneurship by established stronger regional resources to support start-ups in terms of cross-border incubation, mentorship, early-stage investment, and business matching. The next activity the APEC Accelerator Network Summit 2014 will be organized in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei in August 2014, which includes a one-day Accelerator Network Summit and one-day competition among 30 pre-selected start-ups for Intel and Siemens’s Awards.

APEC Workshop on the Dynamics of SME: Informality and Women Entrepreneurship (Indonesia)

The workshop was successfully conducted in September 2013 in Nusa Dua Bali. Invited speakers presented their ideas and thoughts about factors determining the dynamics of SMEs and their key constraints, women entrepreneurship as well as recommendations for SME policymakers.

Workshop on Promotion of New Business by Women’s One Village One Product (Japan)

The APEC Women’s One Village One Product (OVOP) Seminar was held in September in Bali, Indonesia. The seminar aimed to disseminate ideas/information on how to facilitate women’s entrepreneurship with the use of the “One Village One Product (OVOP)” method. In the seminar, Japan reported on the result of the OVOP Movement Utilizing Women’s Possibilities survey, highlighting the best practices of women’s OVOP groups. Experts from different sectors were also invited to share their experiences on key success factors for facilitating women’s entrepreneurship.

Improving Natural Disaster Resilience of APEC SMEs to Facilitate Trade and Investment (Chinese Taipei)

The goal of the project is to help SMEs better prepare for natural disasters through business continuity planning. For example, contingency plans to relocate production to a different city in the event of a disaster ensures minimal disruptions to operations and global supply chains. Key deliverables of the project so far included the publication of the Guidebook on Promoting SMEs’ Business Continuity Plans and three Train-the-Trainer Workshops to provide government, business and non-profit organizations with the resources to train SMEs on business continuity planning in Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Indonesia. Several training programs to help SMEs develop their own business continuity plans are scheduled throughout the region. The recent High-level Policy Dialogue on Resilient SMEs for Better Global Supply Chain held in Chinese Taipei in March 2014 provided another important avenue to discuss raising awareness of business continuity planning as well as promoting its implementation. The collaboration between APEC SMEWG and APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group (EPWG) as well as other regional institutes and organizations, including the ASEAN Disaster Reduction Centre (ADRC), has been strengthened to widen the outcomes of their joint efforts. For more information on the outcomes and benefits of the SME disaster resilience project:

Establishing The Green Technology Innovation Network to Support SME Development (Indonesia)

The project is focused on developing a green technology network that would benefit SMEs in the region. The network would facilitate interaction between green technology-based SMEs and technology innovation providers; and provide an avenue for sharing best practices on the promotion and development of green technology-based SMEs in APEC economies.

APEC Green Business Forum (Korea)

The APEC Green Business Forum was held in Bali, Indonesia in September 2013. The forum followed up on the APEC Carbon Labelling Workshop held in March 2013. The project focused on ways for SME policymakers to provide an enabling environment for SMEs by raising awareness about the global green supply chain and closing the capacity gap in carbon labelling schemes within APEC through training workshops. Carbon labelling schemes involve product labels that indicate how much carbon emissions were used to harvest, manufacture and transport the product, enabling consumers to make purchasing decisions based on the 'carbon footprint' of products.  

Promoting Innovation Seminar: How Smart Intellectual Property Rights Policies Can Encourage SMME’s Research and Development (Thailand)

The seminar will take place in Bangkok in September 2014 and intends to foster stakeholder discussion on small, medium and micro-enterprise (SMME) intellectual property rights (IPR) needs and to produce policy recommendations for improving domestic intellectual property systems in APEC to foster economic growth through small, medium and micro-enterprise innovation.

2. Financing

APEC Public -Private Dialogue on Addressing Impediments of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and Micro Enterprises (MEs) in Accessing Trade Finance (Viet Nam)

Seminar of Financing Innovation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (China)

The project includes two phases. The first seminar, which will be held in Yiwu, China on 21 June 2014, is expected to promote the understanding of financing innovation and to facilitate the exchange and sharing of the experience on financing innovation of SMEs among APEC economies. The second activity shall be a seminar at the margins of the 21st SME Ministerial Meeting in Nanjing, China in September 2014, which will focus on developing a policy response to addressing some of the challenges outlined by SMEs.

Financing APEC SME Innovation Workshop: Identifying Government Policies that Promote Venture Capital Investment in APEC Economies VC (Thailand)

The workshop shall take place in Bangkok, Thailand on June 19-20, 2014. The Workshop aims to improve access to finance for innovative APEC SMEs through venture capital investment by building better understanding of issues and challenges facing APEC economies in growing their domestic and international venture capital presence.

3. Business Environment, Market Access and Internationalization

SME Business Ethics in the Healthcare Industry (the United States)

Ethical business practices in the medical device and biopharmaceutical industries are key to regulate the close interaction between the industry and healthcare professionals, often resulting in conflicts of interest. Moreover, unethical practices affect patient care and costs.  Since 2011, the multi-year APEC SME Business Ethics project developed codes of ethics for the medical device and biopharmaceutical industries, working closely with industry associations in the region. In 2013, the project organized workshops to train over 120 trainers to provide ethics training for SMEs in their local economies and assist them in adopting and complying with the codes of ethics. In 2014, these APEC ethics codes have been successfully adopted and implemented by around 60 healthcare industry associations and their member companies from 18 economies across the Asia-Pacific, representing around 14,000 firms.

Facilitating SMEs Integration into Global Value Chains (the United States)

The United States hosted a launch workshop to facilitate the integration of SMEs into global supply chains. The workshop focused on obligations and expectations that translate across the supply chains to SME sub-contractors and suppliers. Companies shared information on the types of certifications that are required to ensure the integrity of the products produced within the supply chain. Five sectors are of high interest to regional SMEs: agriculture, food processing, electronics, automobiles and handicrafts. In addition, the APEC Policy Support Unit prepared a report on Integrating SMEs into Global Value Chains: Policy Principles and Best Practices.

Directory of initiatives available in APEC Economies to Assist SMEs’ access to Global Markets (Australia)

The project, led by Australia, intends to create a directory of initiatives that APEC economies have in place to assist their SMEs’ access to global markets. SMEs participation in global markets can be either as direct exporters of goods and services or as part of a global supply chain.  Australia noted that nine economies have already contributed to the directory and issued a further invitation to other economies that would like to participate.

SME Seminar on Cross Border Trade (CBT) in APEC Region (Indonesia)

The APEC Workshop on cross border trade in the APEC region took place in February 2014 in Bali, Indonesia. It addressed key issues related to SMEs' involvement in cross border trade in the region, focusing specifically on key constraints for doing business across borders. Recommendations from the seminar include: building and improving database of information; simplifying the administrative procedures and accreditation process; increasing the role of various business actors such as the private sector and associations, including SMEs; encouraging SMEs to produce value-added products through increasing capacity building and technical assistance as well as promoting the value chain financing; and facilitate business meetings and business matching among SMEs in neighboring economies.

Next Meetings

The 39th APEC SMEWG Meeting will be held Nanjing, China, on September 3 – 4, 2014.

The 21st APEC SME Ministerial Meeting will be held in Nanjing, China on September 5, 2014.

An Integrated Plan of Action for SME Development (SPAN) was developed and endorsed by APEC SME ministers in 1998. The SPAN serves as a set of broad guidelines for SME development in individual economies. It also provides a reference point for review of both individual and collaborative initiatives, programs and regulatory frameworks.

To help SMEs embrace the culture of innovation and maximize the benefits of technology, the Daegu Initiative was launched in 2005. The initiative is intended as a long-term measure which runs in five year cycles with the objective of improving the economic and policy environments of all member economies to make them more conducive for SME innovation.

Six areas were identified in the first cycle between 2006 and 2010:

  1. Developing human resources and technology through linkages between industry and educational and research institutions;
  2. Accessing to specialist assistance and advice;
  3. Enhancing availability of capital to innovative SMEs;
  4. Networking and clustering for innovative SMEs;
  5. Establishing appropriate legal and regulatory structures; and
  6. Establishing a market consistent economic environment.

Under this initiative, an APEC SME Innovation Centre has been established in Korea to offer consulting services to small businesses and provide opportunities for economies to share innovation policy experiences.

The Green Initiative is the second cycle of the Daegu Initiative. As part of this initiative, the APEC SME Green Innovation Conference was held in April 2011 in Seoul, Korea that brought together government officials from SME-related and energy ministries and business representatives from innovative SMEs to share ideas and forge greater cooperation.

The Private Sector Development Agenda was launched in 2007 to help APEC economies create an enabling environment for small business by using the World Bank’s Ease Doing Business indicators. The 2007-2010 work plan to further this agenda include surveys and symposiums on:

  • 2007: Establishing a business (Australia)
  • 2008: Obtaining licenses (Peru)
  • 2009: Access to capital (Singapore)
  • 2010: Getting Credit (Japan).

In May 2011, the 18th Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting (SMEMM) was held in Big Sky, Montana, the United States, under the theme “Leveraging Partnerships with APEC Small Businesses to Foster Innovation and Create an Entrepreneurial Society”. The first Joint Ministers Responsible for Trade and SME Ministers Meeting was also held in Big Sky, Montana on May 20th, 2011 and expressed the need for similar collaboration in the future. In November 2011, at the Leaders’ Summit in Honolulu, APEC Ministers endorsed a set of 3 Codes of Business Ethics for the Medical Device Sector (Kuala Lumpur Principles), the Biopharmaceutical Sector (Mexico City Principles) and the Construction and Engineering Sector (Hanoi Principles).

In August 2012, the 19th Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting (SMEMM) was held in Saint Petersburg, Russia under the theme “Promoting SME Cooperation for Innovative Growth in the APEC Region.” At the meeting, Ministers:

  1. Reaffirmed the importance of addressing trade and investment barriers and improving the business environment for SMEs, including youth, women entrepreneurs, and MEs in the APEC region, and endorsed the results and efforts made by the SMEWG on financing, open and transparent business environment and high transportation and related costs, recognizing the importance of addressing trade barriers identified in Big Sky, Montana at the 18th Ministerial Meeting;
  2. Agreed that corruption imposes a significant market access barrier and high costs for SMEs.  To address this challenge, they endorsed principles for voluntary codes of business ethics for the medical device, biopharmaceutical, and construction/engineering sectors. They recognized the importance of working to raise awareness of these principles and welcomed progress in implementing these principles, through the development of codes of ethics by industry associations and companies and capacity building efforts;
  3. Agreed that effective protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and simultaneous reduction of trade and investment barriers in this field are among the key issues for further SMEs development in the APEC region. They welcomed Russia’s proposal to organize a joint meeting of IPEG and SMEWG so as to facilitate further collaboration between the fora and to work further on the cross-cutting issues, including the formation of an accessible system of receipt of protection documents for the intellectual property items for SMEs;
  4. Recognized the importance of the Russian initiative to the creation of a common information resource for SMEs which will promote companies’ inclusion in global supply chains and will ultimately foster innovation development in the APEC region;
  5. Endorsed the adoption of the “Guideline on Promoting SME Business Continuity Plans to Strengthen Reliability of Supply Chains”, formulated by an Expert Group in Chinese Taipei, and urged APEC fora and governments to cooperate on assisting SMEs to develop disaster preemptive mechanisms in accordance with the Guideline;
  6. Welcomed work that promotes the exchange of best practices for instruments that support innovative SMEs and MEs and instructed officials to develop capacity-building activities to deliver effective economic and technical cooperation;
  7. Recognized the importance of the inclusion of young entrepreneurs in economic activities and, in this regard, supported the implementation of the Young Entrepreneurs Network (YEN) and welcomed the first YEN meeting that was held on August 2, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Russia; endorsing the results of the first meeting and agreeing with the format of this event on an ongoing basis as a part of the SME Working Group;
  8. Reaffirmed the crucial role of SMEs and MEs as an integral part of economic growth and as a source of forward-thinking ideas; and instructed officials to pay special attention to innovative SMEs and MEs in the work of SMEWG in the near future (2013-2016).
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Markets International Trade Administration
Department of Commerce United States
Tel: +202 482-5341
Fax: +202 482-5444
Phuong HA (Ms)
Program Director
APEC Secretariat
TBC - Oct AAN Summit and Challenge for Early-Stage Investment (APEC Accelerator Network for Early-Stage Investment) Chinese Taipei
25 Sep 2015 22nd Small & Medium Size Enterprises (SME) Ministerial Meeting Iloilo , Philippines
23 - 24 Sep 2015 41st Small & Medium Size Enterprises (SME) Working Group Meeting Iloilo , Philippines
TBC - Sep Facilitating Small & Medium Size Enterprises (SME) Trade through Better Understanding of Non-Tariff Measures in the Asia Pacific Region (2nd Workshop) Iloilo, Philippines
TBC - Sep 2nd APEC Accelerator Network Forum (APEC Accelerator Network for Early-Stage Investment) Iloilo, Philippines
19 - 20 Aug 2015 2nd Business Ethics for Small & Medium Size Enterprises (SME) Forum Manila, Philippines
30 - 31 Jul 2015 Train-the-Trainer Workshop on Promoting Small & Medium Size Enterprises (SME) Business Continuity Plans Chinese Taipei
30 Jun - 2 Jul 2015 12th Annual Meeting and Conference of APEC’s Financial Institutions Dealing with SMEs Cancun, Mexico
10 - 11 Jun 2015 40th Small & Medium Size Enterprises (SME) Working Group Meeting Atlanta, Georgia, United States
8 - 9 Jun 2015 APEC Small & Medium Size Enterprises (SME) Business Matching and Internship Consortium for Global Value Chain Integration Atlanta, Georgia, United States
8 - 9 Jun 2015 Supply Chain Capacity Building for Small & Medium Size Enterprises (SME): Supply Chain Management, Cold Chain Storage and Technical Regulations Atlanta, Georgia, United States
8 - 9 Jun 2015 Facilitating Small & Medium Size Enterprises (SME) Trade through Better Understanding of Non-Tariff Measures in the Asia Pacific Region (1st Workshop) Atlanta, Georgia, United States
TBC - Jun 1st APEC Accelerator Network Forum (APEC Accelerator Network for Early-Stage Investment) Atlanta, Georgia, United States
30 Jan 2015 Policy Dialogue for Small & Medium Size Enterprises (SME) BCP Forum and Workshop Clark, Philippines