Small and Medium Enterprises
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In the APEC region, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for around 90 percent of all businesses and employ as much as 60 percent of the work force. At present, however, they generate only around 30 percent of exports. APEC’s Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG) therefore works to encourage the development of SMEs and 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 enabling business environments for SMEs to grow and develop into export-ready (internationalized) firms, through the sharing of information on best practice initiatives and conducting capacity building activities.

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 will provide a roadmap to address critical issues and concerns 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; and
  3. Business Environment, Market Access and Internationalization.

The SMEWG meets twice a year. The most recent meeting was held in Makati City, the Philippines, on 13-14 March 2013.

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

  • Current Activities
  • Achievements
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The 37th Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG) Meeting was held in Nusa Dua, Bali on 4-5 September 2013. The SMEWG members reviewed their activities in relation to the endorsed priorities of this year: (1) Building Management Capacity, (2) Entrepreneurship and Innovation, (3) Finance, (4) Business Environment, Market Access and Internationalization.

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 SME Working Group agreed to work together and provided four key indicators for the SME Monitoring Index to assess outcomes of the 2013-2016 Strategic Plan. These four indicators include: (i) SMEs share of GDP; (ii) SMEs share of total business population; (iii) SMEs contribution to employment; (iv) SMEs contribution to exports.

Key Deliverables and Projects for 2013:

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

The APEC Workshop on The Dynamics of SME: Informality and Women Entrepreneurship was successfully conducted in September 2013 in Nusa Dua Bali. The workshop was attended by 64 participants from 14 member economies and was organized by Indonesian SMEWG/R&D for Cooperatives and SMEs Resources, Ministry of Cooperative and SME, with the Center for Industry, SME and Business Competition Studies University of Trisakti as the co-organizer. Invited speakers presented their ideas and thoughts about factors determining the dynamics of SMEs and their key constraints and some key issues related to women entrepreneurship. The seminar also covered specific actions that APEC member governments could implement to address this issue, and provided a list of specific recommendations for SME policymakers.

Levelling the Playing Field (Chile)

Chile emphasized their high growth rate and high GDP, which is the highest in Latin America. Inflation has been also been controlled. In terms of entrepreneurship and innovation, Chile has implemented a program called “Bee Capital” which is a funding program that provides non-repayable grants to women entrepreneurs for amounts ranging from US $1000 to $6000. The program has already funded 2,600 business projects led by women. Chile has also implemented changes in procedures that have reduced the amount of work needed to start and formalize a business. Chile also provides legal assistance to SMEs and has prioritized innovation among SMEs. There have also been efforts to institute regional entrepreneurship centers and One Village One Product (OVOP)-type activities throughout the economy.

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 made a report on the result of the “OVOP Movement Utilizing Women’s Possibilities” survey, which Japan conducted for the seminar, highlighting the best practices of women’s OVOP groups. Experts from different sectors were also invited to share their experiences and views on key success factors for facilitating women’s entrepreneurship.

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

The Green Technology Initiative was held in Bali, Indonesia in September 2013. The workshop aimed to carry out the recommendations made by the 2011 APEC International Training and Workshop on Green Technology Business Incubation in Indonesia to develop 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 and was attended by 49 participants from 16 member economies. 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.

Business Ethics Compliance Train-the-Trainer Workshop and Workshop on Stakeholder Awareness for the Healthcare sector (USA)

This year the Multi-Year Project on "Business Ethics for APEC SMEs" organized two events:

  • A train the trainer workshop with 125 trainees, creating ethics champions and change agents who will return to their home economies and carry out local ethics training.
  • A high-level meeting that convened key stakeholders critical to creating an ethical healthcare ecosystem (leaders from physician and hospital organizations, anti-corruption agencies, health ministries and health regulatory agencies, and industry) to build awareness on the high standard APEC principles for codes of ethics (the KL and Mexico City Principles). The high-level group issued a "Bali Statement," calling on APEC to carry out sustained capacity building and dialogue on business ethics issues for all healthcare stakeholders by creating an on-going "APEC Business Ethics Forum" to foster regional cooperation. In addition, the Initiative's public-private monitoring groups reported that over 15 associations across the APEC region created or updated a codes of ethics this year that are aligned with the high standard APEC Principles.

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

The Project, led by Australia, aimed to create a directory of initiatives that APEC economies have in place to assist their SMEs’ access global markets.  SME participation in global markets can be either as a direct exporter 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. 

APEC Startup Accelerator Initiative - Startup Leadership Summit (Chinese Taipei)

Within the framework of the project, Chinese Taipei organized two events: the “APEC Startup Accelerator Leadership Summit 2013” and the “Intel APEC Challenge.” Chinese Taipei also proposed an “APEC Accelerator Network” concept note to establish stronger regional resources to support startups in terms of cross-border incubation, mentorship, early-stage investment, and business matching. The first phase of the APEC Accelerator Network will establish a forum to be held back to back with the 38th SMEWG Meeting in March 2014, and the second phase of the project will host a start-up competition in August, 2014 in Chinese Taipei.

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

The APEC Train-the-Trainer Workshop on Promoting SME Business Continuity Planning was held in August 2013 in Chinese Taipei, as a part of its multi-year project to enhance SMEs’ natural disaster resiliency. Chinese Taipei also presented the “Guidebook on Promoting SMEs’ Business Continuity Plans” as one of the key deliverables of the project for 2013.

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

The APEC Workshop on Cross Border Trade in the APEC Region will take place in February 2014 in Bali, Indonesia. The workshop will be organized by the Indonesian SMEWG/R&D for Cooperatives and SMEs Resources, Ministry of Cooperative and SME in cooperation with the Center for Industry, SME and Business Competition Studies, USAKTI. It will address key issues related to SMEs' involvement in cross border trade in the region, focusing specifically on key constraints for doing business across borders.

Next Meeting

The 38th APEC SMEWG Meeting will be held March/April 2014 in Chinese Taipei.

The 20th APEC SMEMM will be held in the second half of 2014 in Nanjing China.


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).
Dr Wimonkan KOSUMAS (Ms)
Deputy Director General of the Office of SMEs Promotion
TST Tower, 21 Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road,
Jatujak District, Bangkok 10900, Thailand
Tel: +662 298 3013-4
+662 298 3232-3
Fax: +662 273 8850
HA Thi Quynh Phuong (Ms)
Program Director
APEC Secretariat