APEC SME Ministers Commit to Inclusion Through Digital Transformation

Ministers in charge of small and medium enterprise (SME) policy in APEC economies convened this week in Concepcion, Chile’s second largest city, to talk about one of the most underrepresented but vital business sectors of the Asia-Pacific region.

The focus of their discussion: the digitization, internationalization and access to financing for small businesses, as well as their potential as one of the most effective ways to empower women and integrate them into the global economy.

According to Chile’s Economy, Development and Tourism Minister Juan Andrés Fontaine, small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of commercial exchange in the Asia-Pacific. He described the occasion as an opportunity to discuss the best ways to deal with the challenges faced by SMEs and to find new initiatives to promote their development.

 “As economies become closer and more connected to each other thanks to internationalization and the digital world, many new opportunities as well as challenges will arise,” said Fontaine.

“When faced with these challenges and opportunities, small and medium-sized enterprises will look for answers from us,” he said.

“I thank Chile for hosting this SME Ministerial Meeting,” said Evan Holley, Chair of the APEC SME Working Group, whose members have been engaging in discussions about projects, policies and best practices in empowering SMEs in their respective economies. “It provides important recognition that international cooperation on business issues is vital to the success of the APEC project.” 

“Ninety-seven percent of business across APEC are micro, small or medium sized enterprises,” said Mr Holley. “So these firms, this business sector, must be part of the economic cooperation process,”

“There are a lot of things in the SME Working Group that support Chile’s priorities for this host year,” he continued, reporting to ministers that the group continues to pursue inclusive and sustainable growth through outcomes to globalize small businesses, and empowering women, by leveraging technology.

The meetings of the SME Working Group and Ministers were the culmination of APEC SME Week here in Concepcion. Activities over the past three days included a forum on APEC’s “Offline to Online (O2O) Initiative” to empower SMEs to embrace digital transformation; a workshop to explore whether technology can close the gender gap and deliver economic gains for women; a forum on facing global challenges through SME innovation and sustainability; and a financial technology summit, among others.

APEC’s focus on inclusion continues in the Women in the Economy Forum to be held later this month. 


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