Small and Medium Enterprises

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the engines of growth and innovation in the APEC region. They account for over 97 percent of all business and employ over half of the workforce across APEC economies. They contribute significantly to economic growth, with their share of GDP ranging from 20 percent to 50 percent in most APEC economies. However, they only account for 35 percent or less of the direct exports. APEC’s Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group 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 group was renamed the Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG) in 2000. The SMEWG is the champion within APEC for the inclusive development of sustainable SMEs that are well prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The APEC SME Ministerial Meetings, held annually since 1994, set out the direction for the working group. In September 2016, SME ministers endorsed the SMEWG Strategic Plan for 2017-2020, which provided a roadmap to address critical issues pertaining to the growth of SMEs and microenterprises in the APEC region.

These issues are the following:

  • Entrepreneurship, innovation and the internet and digital economy
  • Financing for business expansion and capability development
  • Inclusive business ecosystem that supports SME growth
  • Market access for SMEs

Last page update: September 2019 

Current Activities

The 25th APEC SME Ministerial Meeting was held in Concepcion, Chile, 5–6 September 2019.  “SME Financing and Digital Transformation in a Globalized Economy” was the main topic of the resulting ministerial statement, which covered three subtopics:

  • Digital Transformation for SMEs and Entrepreneurs
  • Fostering Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs
  • SMEs and Internationalization: a Better Way of Doing Business in a Globalized World

The SMEWG met twice in 2019. The 48th SMEWG Meeting was held in Qingdao, China on 30–31 May 2019, and the 49th SMEWG Meeting took place in Concepcion on 3–4 September, right before the meeting of ministers. In both meetings, member economies discussed the advancements on the implementation of the mandates of SME Ministers and the SMEWG Strategic Plan for 2017–2020. Members also exchanged information regarding best practices and agreed to continue strengthening cross-fora collaboration in APEC as well as collaboration with external partners.

In 2019, the following APEC funded projects were endorsed by the SMEWG:

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21 - 24 Sep


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Contact Us


APEC Small & Medium Working Group
Australian Government Department of Jobs and Small Business
[email protected]


Program Director
[email protected]