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APEC promotes MSME participation in global trade through the Boracay Action Agenda

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Philippines gathered public and private sector leaders and stakeholders from and beyond the region for the APEC Global MSME Forum last June 28-30. The three-day virtual conference featured three key themes: (1) opportunities and challenges in the global economy, (2) the role of MSMEs in economic recovery, and (3) the MSME agenda in the new normal. 

In APEC, MSMEs comprise 97% of businesses, generating over half of the workforce across the region – making them a key part of global supply chains. They contibute around 40% to 60% of gdp in most economies, although they only account about 35% of direct exports. 

MSMEs were the most hit of COVID-19 as they were vulnerable to shocks due to labor shortages, weak consumer demand, trade disruptions, and financial instability.  The pandemic likewise presented opportunities for the smaller enterprises to embrace technology and adopt digital innovation.

In Canada’s case, Minister Mary Ng shared the economy’s program in helping businesses with upskilling and providing job opportunities for the youth in order to help small businesses go digital.  

In the opening panel, APEC Ministers shared the measures taken by each economy to support MSMEs and facilitate their participation in global value chains, amidst the pandemic. The session include Secretary Ramon Lopez of the Philippines, Minister Mary Ng of Canada, Vice Minister Rodrigo Yáñez of Chile  twith  moderated by ABAC Member Guillermo Luz, other panelists in the forum further discuss the Boracay Action Agenda to encourage MSMEs’ participation in international trade and e-commerce as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But in order to help MSMEs recover through digital means, governments and policymakers must play a key role in helping small businesses reap the benefits and overcome the challenges of digitization. DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez further added, “When we talk of digitalization, it is not only limited to MSMEs.  We need digitalization in our government as well.” While the benefits of digitalization offer endless possibilities for MSMEs, this alone is not enough to globalize MSMEs. 

On globalizing MSMEs, Vice Minister Rodrigo Yáñez of Chile urged APEC to push for initiatives that will build on the Boracay Action Agenda. He further notes, “By doing so contribute to advance MSMEs internationalization, reducing trade and international barriers, improving access to finance, and strengthening their capacities in trade and digital platforms – which are all key not only in the face of the pandemic, but also in building resilient economies.” 

Since its adoption last 2015, APEC’s Boracay Action Agenda (BAA) underscored the significance of MSMEs participation in global e-commerce and supports measures on financing MSMEs, easing documentation and business procedures, and streamlining customs-related procedures. “We need to bridge as many MSMEs to the market and financing opportunities that are already open, and create more channels through technology and digital innovation.” Luz added.