Small and Medium Enterprise Ministers from the APEC member economies have detailed a new package of joint actions to strengthen the development of the sector and increase its contribution to economic growth and job creation across the Asia-Pacific region. 

The measures are laid out in a Joint Statement issued by Ministers following the just concluded 21st APEC SME Ministerial Meeting in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, a major SME center. Focus is on strengthening the innovation capacity and sustainability of SMEs while eliminating barriers to their participation in cross-border trade. 

The APEC SME Joint Ministerial Statement can be viewed at this link. 

“Without the robust development of SMEs, there will no sustainability of APEC economies and without the robust development of APEC, there won’t be a hopeful future for the global economy,” said Ma Wei, China’s Vice Premier. “Establishing a mechanism that supports development of SMEs is critical.” 

SMEs account for over 97 per cent of all businesses, employ over half the workforce and up to 60 per cent of the gross domestic product of APEC economies. But their share of exports is still relatively low at 35 per cent or less. 

“Through regional cooperation, there is a real opportunity for us to inject new impetus to the development of the SME sector,” added Miao Wei, China’s Minister of Industry and Information Technology who chaired the meeting. “Creating an enabling environment for SME development and improving their innovative development capabilities is key.” 

Ministers endorsed the Nanjing Declaration on Promoting SME Innovative Development which mandates policy support for electronic commerce platform development and the application of “big data” and “open data” to facilitate SME expansion and cross-border trade. It also calls for the establishment of a new APEC center for the promotion of information and communications technology within the sector. 

The Declaration furthermore welcomes the China Development Bank to explore the creation of a possible cooperative mechanism and designated loan, in coordination with associated financial institutions in the region, to provide financing support for SME innovation. 

The Nanjing Declaration on Promoting SME Innovative Development can be viewed here. 

“We are focused on measures that strengthen SMEs and microenterprises individually and collectively to capture their growth potential,” explained Dr Wimonkan Kosumas, Chair of the APEC SME Working Group. “Creating an enabling business and policy environment and enhancing participation in, and access, to global markets are core elements of our agenda.” 

Ministers supported the creation of an APEC SME International Monitoring Index to better analyze the cross-border business growth of firms in the sector as well as initiatives that promote the integration of SMEs into global value chains, export-oriented business development among women-led SMEs and the lowering of barriers to start a business.

A new APEC Business Ethics Web Portal was meanwhile launched to enhance firms’ ethics compliance knowledge and capacity to implement detailed codes of ethics known as the APEC Principles. Ministers called on APEC economies to double the number of codes of ethics in the medical device and biopharmaceutical sectors by 2015 and take the next step in others like construction to reduce corruption that stunts SME growth and market access. 

Enhancing emergency preparedness among vulnerable SME in the world’s most natural disaster prone region through greater business continuity planning, or BCP, promotion and training is an additional point of emphasis. The goal is to keep them up and running, ensure livelihoods and curb supply chain disruptions. 

“We are in a changed environment marked by lower trade and economic growth which is ramping up focus on new engines for growth,” concluded Dr Alan Bollard, APEC Secretariat Executive Director. “Increasing the trade share and productivity of SMEs are central to the new growth equation given that they’re everywhere and everything in our economies.” 

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Downloadable high resolution photos from the 21st APEC SME Ministerial Meeting are available at this link

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