New Delhi, 23 May, 2015 (ISSME): “THINKING GLOBALLY, PROSPERING REGIONALLY” is the punch line that forms the basis of ASEAN Economic Community 2015 (AEC 2015). The 10 member states of ASEAN such as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam with a combined market of over 600 million consumers and GDP of nearly US$3 trillion will share the benefits of AEC 2015, the bblueprintof which was adopted at the 13th ASEAN Summit on November 20, 2007. The four building blocks of the Community are:
- A single market and production base;
- A highly competitive economic region;
- A region of equitable economic development; and
- A region fully integrated into the Global Economy.
Enhancing the competitiveness and expansion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is one of the key areas of cooperation that AEC 2015 envisages. SMEs are important economic players as they account for more than 90% of the businesses operating in the ASEAN member states and contribute 30-60% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the member states. They play a significant role in the economy of the region in terms of resolving the twin problems of unemployment and poverty. AEC 2015 will bring about many opportunities for SMEs in the region.
Keeping in mind the fact that sustainable development of the region would largely depend on the success of SMEs, policy makers are developing such strategies and policies in the context of AEC 2015 that would prop-up their growth. Regional integration through the AEC will make doing business across ASEAN easier and reduce the cost of doing business. Some of the key steps taken for the benefits of SMEs are: simplified customs procedures; self-certification; mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs) and the streamlining and harmonisation of standards in all business sectors; signing of FTAs; leveraging financial and non-financial institutions in the region; and sharing of SME policies and initiatives on market access and internalization of SMEs.
However, it is crucial for the SMEs to stay abreast of the regional economic integration initiatives that will enable them to adopt strategic measures and reap the benefits of ASEAN integration. (ISSME)