SMALL and medium enterprises (SMEs) can prosper with the business opportunities offered under free trade agreements (FTAs), an official of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said on Wednesday.
FTAs are good for SMEs but they need the assistance of trade chambers to overcome the obstacles that come with FTAs, said George Barcelon, PCCI president.
“While regional partnerships present opportunities, these also present potential threats as they increase competition for MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises],” Barcelon added.
“The MSMEs must have the ability to adapt to rapidly changing market demand, technological change, and capacity constraints relating to knowledge, innovation and creativity,” he said.
Among the FTAs available for SMEs to access foreign markets are those with the Asean Economic Community, Asean’s dialogue partners, and with India.
Barcelon said the FTAs or economic partnerships are avenues to help take advantage of the benefits from increased trade arrangements with larger firms within the region.
He said the chambers such as PCCI and the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and regional groupings such as the Asean Business Advisory Council, the East Asia Business Council and the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry, can serve as important conduits and brokers of investment promotion.
“Cooperation between us can be done in the conduct of trade missions, business matching and even profiling of important markets,” Barcelon said.
He cited PCCI initiatives with the government and others in the private sector to help build the capacities of small enterprises to take advantage of opportunities and strengthen their abilities to compete.
For instance, he said partnerships with the Departments of Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Science and Technology, and the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship provide trainings and mentoring to MSMEs in areas of research and development, innovation, information communication technology, financial management, product quality, among others.
He also cited matching opportunities among buyers and sellers in the Philippines and China through a partnership with the Bank of China and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.