The 10th Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Ministerial Meeting has concluded in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with Ministers calling for Member Economies to strengthen networks between business owners, trade promotion agencies and SME focused financial institutions.
In the Joint Ministerial Statement, "Strengthening an APEC Entrepreneurial Society," Ministers highlighted the courageous and critical role played by SMEs and Micro-enterprises.
"The definition of an entrepreneur goes beyond the conventional meaning of business owner and operator and that risk-taking individuals are the driving force behind entrepreneurship," the statement noted.
"The development of a dynamic entrepreneurial society requires individuals who are innovative, visionary, and ready to take the risk of starting-up a new business.
"A vibrant entrepreneurial society is central to the growth of the APEC economies. Substantial entrepreneurial activity generates demand for new services, products, and jobs."
Ministers also highlighted the challenges brought about by globalization and the role APEC member economies have to play in dealing with these pressures.
"To cope with the challenges of globalization, APEC economies should focus on developing networks among micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) and promotional agencies, MSME banks and MSME associations.
"The entrepreneurial environment is directly affected by: regulatory and tax burdens; labor market legislation; competition policy and legal conditions. Each economy is encouraged to speed-up efforts towards the removal of barriers to entrepreneurial behavior and not to introduce regulations that overly penalize business failure."
In the Joint Ministerial Statement Ministers also highlighted the role of education in promoting business development and stressed the importance of Members identifying and developing entrepreneurial potential in their economies.
Ministers made particular note of the difficulties that are often faced by MSMEs in accessing finance and encouraged APEC Members to seek ways and means to expand financing facilities.
Ministers also encouraged APEC Members to be proactive in developing capacity within their economies to build the capacity of SMEs to trade beyond their borders and explore export markets.
The Ministers adopted the Micro-enterprise Action Plan that is designed to help the smallest businesses in the APEC region through expanding access to new technologies, improving access to finance and undertaking greater research into the challenges facing Micro-enterprises.
Ministers also expressed their ongoing support for the ongoing cooperation between the APEC SME Working Group and other APEC fora such as the APEC Sub-committee on Standards and Conformance, the APEC Finance Ministerial Meeting, SME Financing Institutions, the OECD and business sector groups including the APEC Business Advisory Council and the APEC Women Leaders Network.
The next APEC SME Ministerial Meeting will take place on October 6 to 7 in Santiago, Chile. This will be preceded by an APEC SME Working Group meeting in Vancouver, Canada, on March 8 to 10 next year and the second SME Working Group meeting for 2004 in Santiago, on October 3 to 5.
Click here to view the full statement is available.