Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the engines of growth and innovation in the APEC region. SMEs account for over 97 per cent of all enterprises and employ over half of the workforce across APEC economies. SMEs contribute significantly to economic growth, with their share of GDP ranging from 20 per cent to 50 per cent in the majority of APEC economies. However, they only account for 35 per cent 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.

SMEWG works toward the achievement of APEC’s Bogor Goals by fostering an enabling business environment for SMEs to grow and develop into export-ready firms. The APEC SME Ministerial Meetings, held annually since 1994, set out the direction for the Working Group. In August 2012, the SME Ministers 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: (i) Building Management Capability, Entrepreneurship and Innovation; (ii) Financing; and (iii) Business Environment, Market Access and Internationalization.

Peru, as this year’s hosts,  puts modernizing  MSMEs as one of 2016’s priorities with four focused issues: a) promoting innovation and MSMEs connectivity; b) moving forward to integration and development through productive infrastructure; c) integration of green MSMEs into GVCs; and d) internationalization of MSMEs and their integration in GVCs. The 23rd SME Ministerial Meeting will take place in Lima on 9 September 2016.

With the sponsorship by Canada, the MSME Sub-fund, under the APEC Support Fund (ASF), is established in June 2016 and aims to directly involve APEC MSMEs in project activities to support the building of inclusive economies through MSME-led poverty reduction. More information about this MSME Sub-fund can be found here.

Last page update: 25 July 2016

Current Activities

This year, the SMEWG focuses on completing its Strategic Plan 2013 – 2016 and developing one for 2017 – 2020. It also implements the instructions stated in the 2015 SME Ministerial Meeting Statement and the “Iloilo Initiative: Growing Global MSMEs for Inclusive Development”, endorsed by the SME Ministers in 2015. The Group also plays an important role in realizing the “Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs”, which was adopted by the APEC Economic Leaders at the Meeting in Manila in 2015.

1. Building Management Capability, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation

Nurturing Start-ups

Led by Chinese Taipei, the APEC Start-up Accelerator Initiative is one among successful projects that significantly support the development of start-ups in the APEC regions. Through mentoring,  training  and live pitching sessions, participating start-ups have succeeded in increasing their visibility and securing fund for their businesses. For instance, Gogolook was acquired at USD 18 million. ServTech, one of the six winning startups of the 2014 APEC Challenge, was invited to participate in the Intel Global Challenge in Silicon Valley and won the Innovator Award. In addition, the project created the Accelerator Network Directory, a useful reference for SMEs and start-ups when soft landing in new geographic markets. In 2015, the Initiative continued with focus on early-stage investment. Major activities include two Forums on “From Start-up to Scale-up”, and the APEC Accelerator Network Summit and the APEC Challenge 2015.

Proposed by Viet Nam, the APEC Public – Private Dialogue on Enhancing Capacities of MSMEs in Exporting Services will be organized in in 2017 in Viet Nam. The objectives of this project are three-folded: a) to provide a platform for open dialogue on the current state-of-play as well as opportunities and challenges of APEC services MSMEs; b) to discuss the ways to promote the capacities of exporting services of MSMEs through sound policies, technical assistances and skill development; and c) to provide an opportunity for networking among MSME experts from the public and the private sectors.

Digital and Internet Economy

Proposed by the United States and actively co-sponsored by many economies, SMEWG members are implementing the Digital Economy Action Plan and Work Agenda (DEAP) with specific projects and activities. The Workshop on Enhancing MSMEs’ Access to the Internet Economy is a great platform for exchanging information on challenges for MSMEs, highlight best practices for supporting MSME access, and increasing awareness of private sector efforts to integrate MSMEs into global and regional markets.

Another interesting project funded by APEC is the “New Era of Growth for APEC SMEs through Online-to-Offline (O2O) Business Models” which includes four activities: SME O2O Forum 1 (Ho Chi Minh City, April 016), APEC SME O2O Training Workshop (Taipei City, June 2016), APEC O2O Summit 2016 (Taipei City, 12 – 14 Jul), and APEC SME O2O Forum II (Lima, 6 September). In cooperation with top e-commerce platforms such as eBay, Amazon and Alibaba, this project will advance and facilitate MSMEs’ access to global markets through O2O business models and best practices, and be the catalyst and facilitator paving the way for a new era of growth by making trading across borders faster, cheaper and easier for MSMEs in the APEC region.

The next-step of this O2O Initiative is the project on “Enhancing SME Digital Competitiveness and Resilience towards Quality Growth”. This capacity building project, to be implemented in 2017, will establish an APEC SME O2O Expert Network and publish a comprehensive APEC SME Digital Competitiveness and Resilience Guidebook. In addition, in line with Leaders’ continuous call for cross-fora collaboration and public-private partnership (PPP), other APEC fora such as the Emergency Preparedness Working Group, Human Resource Development Working Group (HRDWG), Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE), APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), Ad Hoc Steering Group on the Internet Economy (AHSGIE), as well as top O2O commerce platforms, leading MNCs and other International Organizations will be engaged in this project. One Summit and two capacity building fora will be organized in Chinese Taipei, Malaysia and Viet Nam in 2017.

Innovation

As supported by the APEC SME Ministers, China is taking lead in developing the APEC Best Practices in SME Innovation and organizing the bi-annual APEC SME Technology Conferences and Fairs (SMETC). This self-funded activity aims to facilitate matchmaking, technology landing, and transformation upgrades for SMEs in China and across the APEC region.

Promoting Women Entrepreneurship and Green Business

Championed and generously sponsored by Australia, the self-funded project on “Supporting Women-led SMEs Access Global Markets by Implementing Gender-Responsive Trade Promotion Policies and Programs” will provide technical training to five economies’ trade promotion agency officials, who are responsible for fostering greater export of goods and services. The program commences with a roundtable (Kuala Lumpur, June 2016) aiming to help officials identify barriers in their organizations to women accessing their services as well as considering specific actions and training to better support the needs of women-led/owned/managed SMEs. A key roundtable outcome will be designing core objectives for follow-up tailor made bilateral workshops based on actual development needs of each economy. The bilateral workshops are planned for at least Peru (August 2016), Papua New Guinea (by mid-2017) and Viet Nam (December 2017) and. This work also furthers PPWE priorities.

The green economy cannot be fully achieved without the participation of MSMEs. Greening MSMES will enhance MSMEs’ competitiveness and improve their market access, while also reducing carbon emissions. However, most MSMEs in the region are not aware of this issue as many of them still, believe that green innovation and technology incurs higher costs and requires inaccessible technical expertise. With that in mind, Thailand proposes and self-funds the initiative Greening MSMEs: A Pathway towards Sustainable Economic Growth in the APEC Region. This project seeks to share knowledge and discuss policy recommendations and to support the APEC Strategy for Green MSMEs as an APEC 2016 Peru deliverable. The forum and workshop takes take place in July 2016 in Bangkok.

In addition, SMEWG has implemented activities that promote women entrepreneurship, innovative and green businesses. Some Reports are available as SMEWG Publications.

2. Financing

The Philippines, in close collaboration with ABAC and the Asia – Pacific Financial Forum (APFF) organized the SME Finance Forum at the margins of the SME Working Group Meeting in Iloilo City in 2015. The Forum discussed issues, concerns, challenges concerning SMEs’ access to finance, such as inadequate legal and institutional infrastructure in many developing economies. Among the recommendations of the Forum were the strengthening of public and private sector dialogue on addressing access to finance by MSMEs, developing credit information sharing systems, expanding access to finance for MSMEs in the supply chain, developing alternative funding mechanisms for MSMEs and start-ups, and developing best practices for strengthening SMEs’ resilience (e.g, microinsurance and disaster risk finance).

Previous workshops on Financing for SMEs are:

Addressing Impediments for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and Micro Enterprises (MEs) to Access Trade Finance

Identifying Government Policies that Promote Venture Capital Investment in APEC Economies

3. Business Environment, Market Access, and Internationalization

Mainstreaming MSMEs into the Global Economy

To support this APEC-wide priority,  SME Working Group has conducted a series of activities that practically helps MSMEs join the global market. These efforts provide capacity building, technical assistance and cooperation, business matching, and networking for both the SMEs themselves as well as the policy makers in the APEC region. The Philippines, with support from member economies, is working on implementing the Iloilo Initiative, with focus on the establishment of the MSME Marketplace, a virtual tool that is expected to promote MSMEs participation in the Global Value Chains (GVCs) and international trade.

In 2016 – 2017, the SME Working Group implements a number of projects to assist MSMEs go international:

An APEC Workshop on Promoting SME’s Integration into Environmental Goods and Services (EGS) Global and Regional Markets, held in July 2016,  helps APEC member economies promote EGS sector, especially in facilitating SMEs’ participation in the EGS markets through identifying SMEs’ obstacles in their access to the EGS regional and global markets; exchange good practices and experiences in supporting SMEs’ integration into the EGS markets; and discussing measures to develop EGS markets for SMEs.

The APEC Workshop on Promoting SMEs’ Participation in the Food Supply Chain, held in May 2016, widely agreed that SMEs, if mobilized, harnessed and facilitated accordingly in food supply chains, would enhance remarkably their competitiveness and integration in the regional and global economics, and then significantly contributes to the economic growth and development as well as securing food security. Recommendations from the Workshop include: enhancing financial availability and access for SMEs; modernizing SMEs through enhancing their access to innovation, advanced technology, e-commerce and digital trade; encouraging mentor by big companies; establishing smart network leadership and coordination; strengthening marketing ability etc.

Some previous projects:

Supply Chain Capacity Building for SMEs: Supply Chain Management, Cold Chain Storage, and Technical Regulations

Facilitating SME Trade through Better Understanding of Non-Tariff Measures in the Asia-Pacific Region: Workshop 1 and Workshop 2

Achievements

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 with the objective of improving the economic and policy environments of all member economies to make them more conducive for SME innovation. Under the first cycle (2006 - 2010), 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. During the Green Initiative, the second cycle of the Daegu 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 APEC Accelerator Network initiative was launched in 2013 to help Asia-Pacific startups gain access to venture capital funding and business mentoring. In 2014, the APEC Accelerator Network selected six startups from the region to participate in the Intel Global Challenge and the Siemens New Venture Forum in Silicon Valley USA, where they received awards and venture capital funding. See more in a recent APEC feature success story.

APEC Start-up Conferences, led by Peru, is another significant effort of APEC. Since its launch, three conferences have been held annually since 2012. The last conference Global thinking to make Global Business was organized in Lima, Peru in October 2014 with over 400 participants attending. Using the series of Start-up Conferences, international keynote speakers, and global corporations shared their valuable and encouraging experiences and views on entrepreneurship, required attitude and skills for entrepreneurs who wish to start a global-market-oriented business, as well as programs for start-ups and entrepreneurs. Start-ups from Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines and Viet Nam were invited to share their initiatives in various industries, including information communications technology, manufacturing, nanotechnology, and 3D printed handicrafts.

The multi-year project on Improving Natural Disaster Resilience of APEC SMEs to Facilitate Trade and Investment, led by Chinese Taipei, has recently completed with great outcomes. The project helped SMEs better prepare for natural disasters through business continuity planning. Key deliverables of the project included the Guidebook on Promoting SMEs’ Business Continuity Planning (BCP), a 10-step model to help businesses develop their own business continuity plans. The Guidebook was translated into six languages, enabling accessibility for 40% of the world’s population. The Train-the-Trainer Workshops to promote the BCP Guidebook were customized and conducted in six APEC economies, benefiting local small and medium-sized businesses. For more information on the outcomes and benefits of the SME disaster resilience project, see recent APEC feature article.

In September 2015, the 22nd Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting (SMEMM) was held in Iloilo, the Philippines under the theme “Mainstreaming MSMEs in the Global Economy”. At the meeting, Ministers instructed APEC officials to: 

  • Eliminate barriers, reduce trade-related costs and facilitate trading of MSMEs globally. Promote MSME trade regulatory education, engage MSMEs and ABAC in the development of policy and regulatory environment.
  • Leverage the digital economy to expand internationalization opportunities for MSMEs. Strengthen MSMEs’ participation in local supply and global value chains through long-term, value-driven partnerships between large enterprises and MSMEs.
  • Promote policy, business and regulatory environments that foster the growth potential of MSMEs, in particular globally competitive and innovation-driven MSMEs. Enhance partnerships, linkages, and networking among innovation centers, research communities, and those involving large and small businesses.
  • Facilitates financial inclusion for start-ups. Urge financial institutions to look beyond financial records and consider MSMEs’ overall business plans and potential. Collaborate with public and private institutions in widening access to finance and business resilience.
  • Assist MSMEs’ intellectual property (IP) awareness and protection, develop necessary measures for the effective use of IP assets by MSMEs.
  • Promote MSMEs’ resilience against unexpected events, disasters, financial crises; build a secure and developed digital economy as part of Business Continuity Planning (BCPs).
  • Launch the APEC MSMS Market place and provide a bigger voice to MSME in the APEC process.
  • Integrate the Boracay Action Agenda (BAA), the Digital Economy Action Plan and the Iloilo Initiative in the next SMEWG Strategic Plan; put in place a monitoring system.
  • Harness synergies across APEC fora to maximize the benefits of relevant work streams. Task SMEWG to exercise leadership to ensure greater complementation in efforts to address issues that threaten the survival and hinder the growth of MSMEs.
  • Seek approval for permanent status for SMEWG in APEC.

Contacts

John M. Andersen (Mr)
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere International Trade Administration
Department of Commerce United States
Email: john.andersen@trade.gov
Xuan Hoa NGHIEM (Mr)
Program Director
APEC Secretariat Email: nxh@apec.org

News

Ministers Issue Statement on Modernizing Small Businesses
Ministers in Lima to Bolster SME Participation in Trade
Top Startups Convert Netizens into Consumers
Health Bodies Unite Against Unethical Conduct
APEC Small and Medium Enterprise Online-to-Offline Forum II
2016 APEC Business Ethics for Small and Medium Enterprises Forum
Narrowing Digital Divide Mobilizes Small Business, Trade
SME Ministers Boost SME Integration in Global Economy
Health Industry Ethics, SMEs Boosted with Code Increase
APEC Lifting Asia-Pacific Trade Barriers for Small Businesses
APEC Challenge Open to Tech Start-Ups
APEC Building Financial Sector into Catalyst for More “Inclusive Economies”
21st APEC SME Ministerial Meeting
SME Sector Gets Cross-Border Business Boost
APEC propelling SME development to ensure Asia-Pacific growth
Enhancing SME Business Ethics in the Healthcare Industry
Preparing SMEs for Disasters
Ministers issue SME ministerial statement: enhancing SME global competitiveness
APEC Ministers issue first joint SME and Women statement
APEC Joint Ministerial Meeting on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Women
APEC targets reduced disaster risk
Support for start-ups to spur innovation
APEC Train-the-Trainer Workshop on Promoting SME Business Continuity Plans
Small business key to innovative growth
Promoting SME cooperation for greater innovative growth in the Asia-Pacific region
APEC’s efforts to promote SME cooperation in the field of innovative growth
Support for SME innovation, supply-chain integration to top APEC Ministers’ agenda in St Petersburg
Supporting SMEs—bedrock of APEC growth
APEC Young Entrepreneurs’ Summit 2011
APEC targets 'next generation' trade issues
APEC SME Ministers encourage green, innovative and competitive policies
APEC Ministers issue first-ever joint statement to bolster trade and SME development
APEC needs to put empowerment of SMEs at center of economic agenda, says US Commerce Secretary
US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke at APEC SME forum press event in Big Sky, Montana
Strategy for Reinvigorating Economic Growth with Dual Engine: SMEs and the Asia Pacific Economy
Stimulating employment by SMEs
Growth of Small and Medium Enterprises a Priority for Policy-Makers
APEC Goes Carbon Neutral
SMEs - A Trans-Pacific Bridge for Sustainable Development
SMEs - A Tool for Development
Second APEC Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Health
14th Meeting of APEC Ministers Responsible for Small and Medium Enterprises
SMEWG Concludes in Preparation for Ministerial Meeting
Vice Minister Draws Attention to the Social Value of Small Business
Translation of Press Conference Comments by Mr. Sung-jin KIM, Chair of the 2005 APEC Small and Medium Enterprise Ministerial Meeting (Original comments were delivered in Korean)
SMEs Action Plan Launched to Help deal with Globalization
Webcast of SME Ministerial Meeting Opening
12th Small and Medium Enterprise Ministerial Meeting
Small and Medium Enterprises Ministers to set Innovation Action Plan
Small and Micro Enterprises Confronting Obstacles to Entering the Formal Sector
New Center to Build SME Innovation Capacity
Small and Medium Enterprises Encouraged to form Industry Clusters
SME Ministers Launch Santiago Agenda on Entrepreneurship, Aimed at Promoting Growth and Job Creation
Webcast of SME Ministers' Meeting News Confernce
APEC Ministers Promote Enhanced Support for Micro Enterprises
APEC Small Business Ministers to Meet in Chile Today, New Proposals to Assist SME and Micro Enterprise Development
SOM Chair's Update on 2004 Issues
Opening Remarks for SME Minister's Meeting
Micro-Enterprise Concerns Discussed in Chile
Breaking down the Barriers for SME Exporters
Business Leaders in Florida - Address Challenges of Globalization
APEC Report Identifies Development Needs of Small Business in the Tourism Industry
APEC SME Ministers Call for Greater Networking Between Business, Government, Trade Promotion Authorities and Banks
e-APEC Strategy to Help Small and Medium Enterprises to Digitize and Participate in Online Business
Remarks by Mr. Vivat Vinicchayakul Chair of the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG) At the Conclusion of the 17th SMEWG Meeting
Self-Employed, Sole Traders and other Micro-Enterprises High on Small and Medium Enterprises Ministers Meeting Agenda
APEC Micro-Enterprise Development Action Plan to Facilitate Improved Access to Finance and New Technology
APEC Business Advisory Council Meets 7-10 August in Hong Kong, China: Concern about the Global Economy Tops the Agenda

Events

17 Nov 2016 APEC SME Summit Lima, Peru
09 Sep 2016 23rd SME Ministerial Meeting Lima, Peru
07 Sep 2016 43rd SMEWG Lima, Peru
06 Sep 2016 APEC SME O2O Forum II Lima, Peru
05 Sep 2016 2016 Business Ethics Capacity-Building for SMEs Roundtable. (M SCE 01 2011A-5) Lima, Peru
05 Sep 2016 2016 APEC Business Ethics for SMEs Forum – Facilitating Trans-Pacific Collaboration for Small and Medium Enterprises. (SME 01 2015A) Lima, Peru
28 Jul 2016 APEC Workshop on Promoting SME’s Integration into Environmental Goods and Services (EGS) Global and Regional Markets. (SME 08 2015T) Ha Noi, Viet Nam
14 Jul 2016 9th APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Technology Conference (SMETC) Shenzhen, China
12 Jul 2016 APEC O2O Summit & Best Practice Showcase. (SME 02 2015) Taipei, Chinese Taipei
12 Jul 2016 APEC Forum and Brainstorming Workshop on Greening MSMEs: A Pathway Towards Sustainable Economic Growth in the Region. (SME 02 2016S) Bangkok, Thailand
09 Jun 2016 Supporting Women-led SMEs Access Global Markets by Implementing Gender-Responsive Trade Promotion Policies and Programs. (SME 03 2016S) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
03 Jun 2016 APEC O2O Summit: New Era of Growth for SMEs Taipei, Chinese Taipei
01 Jun 2016 APEC SME O2O Training Workshop Taipei, Chinese Taipei
26 May 2016 APEC Workshop on Promoting SMEs’ Participation in the Food Supply Chain. (SME 07 2015) Ha Noi, Viet Nam
27 Apr 2016 42nd SMEWG Meeting Ho Chi Minh, Viet Nam
26 Apr 2016 APEC SME Online to Offline Forum 1 Ho Chi Minh, Viet Nam
25 Apr 2016 Workshop on Enhancing Access for Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises to the Digital Economy Ho Chi Minh, Viet Nam
07 Jan 2016 Private Dialogue on Identifying and Addressing Difficulties and Challenges that Hinder SMEs from Taking Trade Benefits and Advantages of RTAs/FTAs in the Region (SME 06 2015T) Ha Noi, Viet Nam