Founding Ceremony of the APEC SME Service Alliance

Ningbo, People's Republic of China, 17 November 2003
  • Speech by Ambassador Piamsak Milintachinda, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
Mr. Yuan Pu, Director of China Centre for Business Cooperation and Coordination (CCBC),
Mr. Wu Hemin, Vice Mayor of Ningbo Municipal People's Government,
Distinguished representatives from business associations of the APEC economies,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is my pleasure and an honour to be here in China, in this beautiful city of Ningbo, representing the APEC Secretariat. I would like to thank our hosts for the warm hospitality accorded to me and my colleagues from APEC Secretariat.
This is an important occasion to the APEC process. I must commend China for its efforts to set up the APEC SME Service Alliance, as it brings together the skills and ideas of both government and business to promote economic and technical collaboration, trade exchange, training, and information exchange among SMEs of APEC economies.
APEC was created in 1989 as a forum to further enhance economic growth and prosperity for the region and to strengthen the Asia-Pacific community.
We recognize that SMEs are the backbone of economic growth in the Asia-Pacific Region, and APEC is committed to creating new business opportunities for SMEs and expanding employment opportunities for the people who work for SMEs.
A recent study concluded that SMEs in the APEC Region represent:
  • 98% of all enterprises
  • 60% of the private sector jobs, and
  • generate - 50% of sales, 30% of direct exports, and 10% of the Foreign Direct Investment by value.
Looking around the 21 economies of APEC, we know that we have a very rich entrepreneurial history, and our SMEs have an ever expanding capacity to compete in the global economy.
APEC economies are home to SMEs that have unique skills, products and services that can be traded in the global marketplace and contribute to regional economic growth.
People who are involved in the APEC process know that the central goals of the APEC process are our "Bogor Goals."
It was in 1994 that the APEC Economic Leaders met in Bogor, Indonesia, and set the goals of free and open trade and investment in the Asia Pacific by 2010 for industrialized economies and 2020 for developing economies.
We are proud to say that APEC is moving closer to the Bogor Goals through the development and implementation of a number of initiatives and programmes, many of which have direct relevance to SMEs.
APEC economies have encouraged cooperation to reduce or eliminate barriers to SMEs participating in cross border trade. We have also increased efforts to share knowledge and experience on domestic policies and practices through the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group.
During 2003 the APEC SME Working Group focused its work on strengthening what we call the "APEC Entrepreneurial Society."
An important part of this was the presentation of research papers and the development of workshops on entrepreneurship development, business creation and capital formation. Other important issues included financial access for SMEs and micro enterprises, and capacity building intended to address impediments to SME exporters.
The creation of the APEC Sub Group on Micro-enterprises through the approval of its terms of reference, together with the group's action plan and work plan for 2004, was one of the most important deliverables of the year for the SME Working Group.
In addition to this, APEC was involved in important work to address the costs and difficulties for SMEs to comply with standards and conformance requirements in order to gain access to overseas markets.
From an APEC perspective, we believe that all businesses should have equal access to the information that makes trade and investment across borders possible.
In the information age, where a wealth of information is available through a simple 'mouse click' on the Internet, we at APEC believe that all businesses, large and small and everywhere in-between, should be able to access the latest information on trade and investment rules in each member economy.
These efforts are part of our commitment to reducing and ultimately removing impediments for SMEs and Micro-enterprises to enter international markets.The SME Working Group has also agreed to establish an ad hoc small working committee to address and evaluate the impediments to trade for SMEs.
These efforts are crucial if the regional entrepreneurial society is to reach its full potential, and very importantly, APEC economies are able to progress in social and economic terms at a 'grass-roots' level.
As part of APEC's efforts to meet these goals, the SME Working Group has conducted two seminars on "Growing the APEC SME exporter community."
The SME Working Group has also worked with the Finance Ministers' Process to develop the sharing of information and expertise for improving production capabilities of micro-enterprises and SMEs. This is specifically relevant to the area of financing for micro-enterprises and SMEs.
One of the great achievements of the 2003 APEC Year has been the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, on Cooperation among APEC Financial Institutions dealing with SMEs and micro-enterprises.
This was agreed by twelve financial institutions from nine Member Economies.
The MOU encourages financial and technical cooperation and is the initial step towards the establishment of a more formal network among APEC SME financial institutions.
With SMEs having already played a significant role during 2003 APEC Economic Leaders, in their meeting last month, underlined the importance of strengthening small and medium enterprises and micro enterprises.
In the 2003 Leaders' Declaration, APEC Economic Leaders highlighted the importance of social safety nets in promoting sustainable and equitable economic development and of undertaking efforts to bring SMEs and Micro Enterprises into formal sector.
The APEC Economic Leaders also instructed Ministers in APEC economies to coordinate on micro enterprise financing and capacity building initiatives, and in particular to increase collaboration with international financial institutions and other relevant parties.
This directive by the APEC Economic Leaders in Bangkok to expand interaction with both the private sector and international financial organizations will serve to further leverage resources for the implementation of the Micro enterprises Action Plan in 2004.
APEC's interaction with private sector has always been a milestone in our work. The recommendations and contributions made by the APEC SME Business Forum and other advisory entities such as the APEC Business Advisory Council, or ABAC, and the Women Leaders' Network, are always welcome in the APEC Process.
Our collaboration with international financial organizations is a newer development in the APEC process and we know will be very beneficial to all participants - particularly small and medium, and micro enterprises.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today we are gathered here in Ningbo, attending the foundation ceremony of one important APEC initiative.
It was in 2001, during the 8th SME Ministerial Meeting when the APEC Business Forum agreed to establish the APEC SME Service Alliance.
The task of the alliance is important - the promotion of economic and technological collaboration, trade exchange, human resources training and information exchange among the SMEs of APEC economies.
I would like to congratulate the China Center for Business Cooperation and Coordination of Nation Development and Reform Commission for assuming the responsibility of establishing the APEC SME Service Alliance.
We expect that this new network will work closely with the APEC SME Working Group to promote the development of SMEs in our region and to facilitate their growth and prosperity.
Finally, I would like to express my best wishes to this new entity which will help us to achieve our objectives of wealth and prosperity for all people of the APEC region.
Thank you.