On 16 June 2021, the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME) together with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC), the Office of SMEs Promotion (OSMEP) and GIZ launched a website www.aseanaccess.com, a one-stop business information gateway for international-oriented businesses to expand their market outreach within ASEAN and beyond.
The website contains information on trade and marketing for businesses in the ASEAN region and the international community. The aim is to encourage international trade and make it more convenient. This includes helping businesses to solve problems and upgrade trade to international markets, as well as setting year-end goals for 10,000 website users and 600 registered users of SMEs across ASEAN. Discussions with the European Union and EABC (East Asia Business Council) will be held in the future to jointly work on creating a programme that further promotes business matching.
Intra-ASEAN trade accounts for the largest share of ASEAN's trade, attaining 22.5% of total merchandise in 2019 and indicating a high level of inter-dependency among ASEAN Member States. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, businesses within the region were severely impacted by the drastic reduction in demand for goods and services. However, it was also an opportune moment to work on accelerating businesses' digital transformation and diversification of sources.
The Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Economic Community Satvinder Singh welcomed the ASEAN Access as the latest addition to ASEAN's trade facilitation support for businesses operating in the region. He urged the national focal points to actively play their roles to promote, contribute contents and secure quality service providers to ensure the ASEAN Access serves its purpose for the ASEAN business community.
In her remarks, Dato' Suriani binti Dato' Ahmad, Chair of ACCMSME and Secretary-General of the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives of Malaysia, noted that the launch of the ASEAN Access is timely, given the prevalent use of digital platforms among businesses as one of the adaptive measures employed to survive the pandemic.
Mr. Reinhold Elges, Country Director of GIZ Thailand and Malaysia said: "SMEs are important drivers for the economies of ASEAN Member States, with an active role that is emphasized in the Blueprint for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2025. SMEs account for around 90% of all businesses in ASEAN and contribute to 60-90% of overall employment, depending on the country. However, total export volumes and revenues account for only 10-30%, thus demonstrating that internationalization of these SMEs remains relatively low in the region. ASEAN Access therefore hopes to provide both a passive and active information platform to fill and bridge this gap and encourage ASEAN SMEs to increase participation in the Global Value Chain and overall export numbers.
On behalf of the German Development Cooperation and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ), GIZ is ready to support the development of ASEAN Access even further for the promotion of ASEAN SMEs and build on the ASEAN-EU strategic partnership including ongoing support for ASEAN Economic Integration."
With the tagline "Your Business Information Gateway to ASEAN and Beyond", ASEAN Access is set to facilitate internationalisation efforts among MSMEs. According to Associate Professor Dr. Veerapong Malai, Director General of the Office of SMEs Promotion (OSMEP), Thailand, it aims to provide trade-related information and market opportunities for ASEAN businesses from both the supplier and customer sides, at no cost, for them to make informed decisions before entering a particular ASEAN market.
To help mitigate the risks of entering a new market, the portal is designed to connect businesses to service providers in areas of distribution, transportation and logistics, market research, and consultancy on intellectual properties, laws and regulations, among others.
For her part, Dr. Yanty Rahman, Chair of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC), emphasizes the importance of interaction among the business community, saying: "We should address the need to enhance business to business and people to people interaction through effective engagement and connectivity as our central purpose of recovery efforts must be to serve the needs of the community".
The ASEAN Access is a flagship initiative of the ACCMSME, spearheaded by the OSMEP, Thailand and supported by the Federal Government of Germany and GIZ.
It contributes to the implementation of the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016 - 2025 which envisions the creation of globally competitive MSMEs that are seamlessly integrated into the ASEAN community by focusing on initiatives to promote productivity, technology and innovation; increase access to finance, enhance market access and internationalisation; enhance policy and regulatory environment and promote entrepreneurship and human capital development.