NAYPYITAW: Economic ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and US Trade Representative Michael Froman shared optimism on small and medium-sized enterprises in benefiting from deeper economic cooperation between the two regions.
The two sides, in a joint statement issued after talks in Naypyitaw, said they hope a Asean-US Business Summit held in Myanmar’s administrative capital “would further enhance the capability of SMEs to participate in the global supply chain and reap the benefits of deeper economic cooperation between Asean and the U.S.”
The statement said Asean appreciates continued support from the United States in such areas as trade facilitation and SME development.
The US government, through the US-Asean Business Alliance for Competitive Small and Medium Enterprises, has in recent months been organizing workshops in some Asean countries to support knowledge-transfer and skills-building to aid SMEs in gaining wider market access through improved branding, technology and logistics.
Froman, speaking at the Asean-U.S Business Summit, said SMEs make up the bulk of employment in both Asean-member countries and in the United States, and “research shows that SMEs that export grow faster, add more jobs, and pay better wages than firms in the same sector that serve purely domestic markets.”
“To realize this region’s full economic potential, we must do more to connect ASEAN’s small businesses with global markets,” he said.
Trade relations between ASEAN and the United States have been strong with total merchandise trade recorded at $ 207 billion last year, a 4.0 percent increase year-on-year.
The United States was Asean’s fourth biggest trading partner, while Asean as a group was the fourth largest U.S. export market and trading partner.
Asean comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.