I would like to thank all the participants from economy members, observers and special guests for making valuable contributions to the works and discussions of this 17th meeting of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Working Group in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I feel it is important to highlight the main points of the discussions that have taken place over the past two days.
I would like to commend the cooperation and new links we have developed with the Standards and Conformance Sub-Committee (SCSC) in 2003 to address the concerns of SMEs in meeting the necessary standards and conformance requirements marked an important milestone in our work.
We have agreed that we are going to continue working in coordination with the SCSC and we welcome Chile's suggestion to organize a joint session meeting in October 2004 with the SCSC.
The SME Working Group also thanked Brunei for the concept paper tabled at the meeting and its recommendations. We also welcome the capacity building workshop on reducing compliance costs.
We thank Malaysia for the survey presented on Capital formation for SMEs and take note that 8 economies responded the survey.
Over the past two days we have also had a fruitful exchange of ideas on how to improve our collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). We thank Chinese Taipei of its proposal and we agreed to continue developing our links with the OECD Working party on SMEs and Entrepreneurship.
The establishment of the Sub Group on micro-enterprises with the approval of terms of reference, action plan and work plan for 2004 is one of the SME Working Group's most important deliverables of this year.
I would like to thank the Micro-enterprise Chair and members of the sub-group for their hard work in the past days.
We welcomed the reports from ABAC and the Women Leaders' Network and agree to incorporate their recommendations in our work plan for 2004.
The SME Working Group also received an interesting report on the outcomes of the Gender Focal Network Point first meeting that was held in Khon Kaen, Thailand, in May and agreed to continue supporting its activities.
The SME Working Group would also would like to thank the SME Working Group Gender Focal representative for their report on the "Study on the Economic contribution of Women and Men in APEC Economies: The Need for Sex Dissagregated Data." The support of the United States is most appreciated and we thank you for continuing to be the gender focal point.
The SME Working Group received a very comprehensive report from Korea on the e-APEC strategy and we thank Korea for its report.
We also welcome the report made by China and Brunei on the implementation of the Beijing Initiative on APEC human capacity building.
Indonesia reported on the implementation of the Integrated Plan of Action for SME Development (SPAN) and Canada also circulated a document under this agenda item. Economies are reminded that this is an ongoing activity and are encouraged to continue reporting.
We would like to thank Australia for its efforts in organizing the seminars, last February in Genting, Malaysia, and this week in Chiang Mai to address the leader's instructions to develop programs to remove obstacles inhibiting the growth of SMEs, including as regional exporters. We welcome the establishment of the small group and its recommendations.
The SME Working Group also received reports from the leading economies on completed and on-going projects. We commend leading economies for the advances and results reported. We also had the opportunity to discuss the last BMC meeting outcomes and how to improve our submission of project proposal to the APEC Central funds.
I took pleasure in receiving the presentation on OECD's SME Working Party activities regarding the Bologna process. We thank the OECD for inviting all APEC non OECD member economies to attend the next OECD SME ministerial meeting to be held in Istanbul, June 2004.
Finally, I would like to welcome Canada's offer to host the next meeting of the Group in Vancouver on March 8 to 10 next year, and thank Chile on the update of their preparation for the 2004 Ministerial Meeting that will take place in Santiago, Chile on October 3 to 7 in 2004.