APEC Ministers responsible for SMEs, from all 21 member economies, the Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, observers from the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, the Pacific Island Forum, APEC Business Advisory Council, the Women Leader's Network and Business Forum attended the twelfth APEC SME Ministerial Meeting held on 1-2 September 2005 in Daegu, Republic of Korea.
Ministers held discussions focused on this year's theme, 'Promoting Innovation of SMEs', which falls in line with the overall APEC 2005 theme of 'Towards One Community: Meet the Challenge, Make the Change'. Ministers agreed that it is important for APEC's SME-related activities to contribute to the ongoing process of building one united economic community of the Asian Pacific region. As part of this effort, Ministers set about exploring ways to facilitate development of thriving micro, small and medium enterprises within the APEC region.
Prior to the plenary session, Ministers attended a retreat to discuss informally, views on innovation. Discussion topics included the ?Daegu Initiative Action Plan? and current cross-cutting policy issues affecting SMEs within the APEC region. Herein, Ministers agreed that innovation is an essential element in creating dynamic SMEs and sustaining their growth. Innovation gives SMEs the edge they need to compete in the competitive global market. Ministers and officials concurred that not only developed, but also developing economies had potential to advance innovation, due to their ability to respond quickly to changes in the economic environment. Ministers also expressed, that in order to achieve co-prosperity of the APEC region, they would need to develop appropriate economic and policy environments for the APEC SMEs to reach their fullest innovative potential.
The Daegu Initiative on SME Innovative Action Plan will act as a guideline to identify challenges faced by SMEs in member economies and allow them to share from their experiences and of their abilities to review and make improvements to the policy and economic environment in order for economies to individually and collectively foster regional innovation. The Initiative places particular emphasis on 7 areas: (1) developing human resources and technology through industry, educational and research institutions; (2) facilitating access to expert assistance and consulting services; (3) enhancing availability of capital to innovative SMEs; (4) networking and clustering for innovative SMEs (5) establishing appropriate legal and regulatory structures; (6) establishing a market consistent economic environment and (7) developing methodologies for effectively measuring processes in the implementation of innovation programs for SMEs. Ministers and officials plan to submit the ?Daegu Initiative on SME Innovation Action Plan? to the meeting of the APEC Economic Leaders and Ministers scheduled to be held in Busan, Korea, in November, as a concrete outcome of the 12th APEC SME Ministerial Meeting.
As another step in furthering the innovative agenda, Ministers accepted a Korean proposal to establish the APEC SME Innovation Center. The Center will link SMEs with supporting organizations of member economies and serve as a resource center for APEC economies to share policy experiences to effectively increase the innovative capacity SMEs in the APEC region.
Furthermore, during the meeting, Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the development of regional micro and small enterprises and the work of the Micro Enterprise Sub Group, recognizing MEs as a unique and differentiated sector of the economy. We exchanged views on how to create a secure, formalized environment for MEs, noting the importance of addressing gender issues as related to MEs within the APEC region. At the meeting, the Micro Enterprises Sub Group (MESG) and Women Leaders Network (WLN) made recommendations to Ministers of steps they felt necessary to raise the status of women business owners and help progress the goals of APEC.
Due to the cross-cutting nature of the APEC SME process, many other groups across APEC handle issues of interest to SME working group. For that reason, APEC SME Ministers reaffirmed the importance of coordinating the efforts of the group with other APEC forums. In response, the APEC SME Working Group Chair worked to encourage cooperation with related forums. Forums contacted reacted positively, agreeing to designate a liaison officer to promote information sharing.
Ministers recognize that, since SMEs owner depend on there businesses for their livelihood and that of their families, it is import to help them protect those businesses by helping them prepare for disasters. Therefore, Ministers were pleased to receive a report by the USA on a checklist for disaster preparedness. The disaster preparedness checklist will be forwarded to the Leaders Meeting in Busan for their recognition.
Overall, the meeting was a great success, contributing to the achieving the objectives of APEC for equitable growth and shared prosperity of economies within the APEC region.