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Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) Secretary and Board of Investments (BOI) Chairman and Ramon M. Lopez highlighted the importance of ASEAN micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in linking up with ASEAN and global multinational enterprises (MNEs) towards further propelling economic growth of the regional bloc to greater heights in the coming years.

Addressing attendees at the 43rd Philippine Business Conference (PBC) of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) recently, Secretary Lopez said, “Just like the Philippines, the ASEAN region is poised to grow from 4.5 percent in 2016 to 4.8 percent in 2017 with the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) already in place. A major milestone in the regional economic integration is the AEC Blueprint 2015 which puts emphasis on including MSMEs in the global value chains of many large and multinational ASEAN companies.”

“This shows that the government and the private sector can really work together in pursuit of shared goals of economic development. The Focused and Strategic (FAST) Action Agenda on Investment is one of the country’s key deliverables in our capacity as the Chairman of ASEAN this year,” Secretary Lopez said adding that the undertaking promotes the integration of MSMEs in the regional production network. “To enhance its promotion and participation of MSMEs in the regional value setting, we are working towards greater trade facilitation, self-certification and creating an ASEAN and national single widow to assist the trade transactions in ASEAN,” he added.

Putting the FAST Action Agenda into force and jumpstart the linkage, the DTI, through its industry development and investments promotion arm—the BOI, conducted a Business Matching Activity as a sub-activity in PCCI’s PBC. Dubbed as “Linking ASEAN MSMEs with ASEAN and Global MNEs”, the activity served as venue for MSMEs to meet and discuss with big companies for possible supplier tie-ups.

MSMEs and MNEs from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand, and Myanmar submitted interest on possible business collaboration particularly in automotive, engineering services, supply of agricultural products, and manufacturing.

A total of 24 meetings transpired during the business matching activity. Upon feedback by the participating companies, six agreed to have follow-up meetings, 13 agreed to further exchange additional information and two had preliminary agreements.

“Our goal is to showcase the region’s MSMEs as possible suppliers of products and services to international companies. As we further encourage them to enhance their competitiveness, in the same way, we also want them to expand their markets and link them to more business opportunities by participating in regional and global value chains,” said Trade Secretary and BOI Chairman Ramon Lopez.

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“Our goal is to showcase the region’s MSMEs as possible suppliers of products and services to international companies. As we further encourage them to enhance their competitiveness, in the same way, we also want them to expand their markets and link them to more business opportunities by participating in regional and global value chains,” Trade Secretary and BOI Chairman Ramon M. Lopez said during the 43rd Philippine Business Conference (PBC) of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

With the continuing positive prospect in ASEAN, MSMEs are among those that can take advantage of the business opportunities in the region. “For the Philippines, since we are empowering the MSMEs with all the necessary tools - education, mentoring, financing, market access, machines, equipment - so they can elevate and prepare themselves to compete and export to other countries,” he said. With the government’s thrust for inclusive and quality growth, Philippine MSMEs can integrate themselves in the ASEAN regional production network along with other MSMEs in ASEAN.

Lopez said the performance of the region and the benefits of an integrated economy can be quantified in terms of investments. Foreign direct investments (FDI) in the ASEAN region reached US$96.7B in 2016, second among FDI inflows in Asia and the world. Intra-ASEAN remains a major source of ASEAN’s investment, accounting about 25 percent of ASEAN’s FDI in 2016, the highest share since 2008.

“The government through the DTI-BOI is committed to continue providing policy environment and programs in support of the promotion of investments in general, and in increasing the participation of MSMEs in the regional and global supply chain. Through greater trade engagements among our neighbors in the ASEAN region and world, we believe this will help us achieve our own goal of creating inclusive growth leading to shared prosperity for all, especially for those at the bottom of the pyramid,” Lopez concluded.

The linking of ASEAN MSMEs with ASEAN and global MNEs is one of the four key deliverables under the FAST Action Agenda on Investment, an initiative of the Philippines that the ASEAN CCI agreed to adopt as a priority deliverable in its 69th Meeting in Manila last February 2017.

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Q&A. Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the government is committed to improving the business environment to attract foreign investments. “This is manifested as we redouble our efforts to streamline and simplify business registration and transactions,” he said during the Q&A portion organized by BOI and PCCI during the 43rd Philippine Business Conference.

The three other key deliverables of the FAST Action Agenda include ASEAN-wide assessment of the outstanding issues on Trade Related Investment Measures, assessment on the establishment of an ASEAN Investment Tribunal, and an in-depth assessment of the business registration among ASEAN in support of the investment facilitation goal of the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement.♦

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