New ASEAN initiative launched for SMEs

The US-ASEAN Business Council and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) officially signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU)  creating the US-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

The MOU was signed by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Council President Alexander Feldman, and Procter & Gamble Vice President Carolyn Brehm as the representative of the Council’s ASEAN committee.

The Business Alliance will combine the efforts of USAID and the Council’s membership of major US corporations to develop the capacity and boost competitiveness of SMEs in the ASEAN region.

The Business Alliance will use training programmes, mentorship opportunities, and cloud technology to support SMEs in the five key areas highlighted by ASEAN for SME development:  access to finance; access to regional and international markets; human resource development; access to information and advisory services; and access to technology and innovation.

SMEs account for more than 96% of all enterprises and for between 50 to 95 per cent of all employment in many ASEAN Member States.

Council President Alexander Feldman said: “This partnership will build on the Council’s widely praised SME training programme created at the request of the ASEAN Economic Ministers in 2011.The Council and USAID’s new ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment program will partner to expand the resources, scope and diversity of SME training in the run-up to the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. As in the U.S., SME’s in ASEAN are a critical part of the economy which will continue to power Southeast Asia in the years to come.”

Carolyn Brehm of Procter & Gamble said: “The success of the ASEAN Economic Community depends to a large extent on the success of ASEAN SMEs. By investing in their growth we can help to unlock their potential to transform the economy and create jobs, drive innovation, and compete across the region and globally. As Chair of the ASEAN Committee of USABC, Procter & Gamble is grateful to have the support of the Council and its members in developing this partnership with USAID. We hope that this Business Alliance for Competitive SMEs will play a key role in advancing broad based growth and prosperity in ASEAN leading up to and beyond AEC 2015.”

The ASEAN Ambassadors in Washington DC attended the launch, and Myanmar’s Ambassador to the U.S. U Kyaw Myo Htut, the current Chairman of the ASEAN Washington Committee, also made remarks and ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh sent a brief statement from Jakarta.

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