Economic officials within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) cited the strategic role small and medium enterprises (SMEs) play in the region’s economic integration bid.

“The ministers agreed that enhancing the region’s efforts in developing SMEs will lead to greater intra-Asean trade and investment flows,” Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo said at the recently concluded 43rd Asean Economic Ministers Meeting and Related Meetings in Manado, Indonesia.

The ministers also called for the timely implementation of activities in the Asean Strategic Plan of Action for SME Development 2010-2015, the region’s framework for SME development.

They agreed to convene the first Asean SME Ministerial Meeting in 2012 and welcomed the formal establishment and the first meeting of the Asean SME Advisory Board as well as the Expert Panel on SME Access to Finance. The ministers also look forward to convening regular consultations with the Asean SME Advisory Board beginning 2012.

“There is a collaborative effort in ASEAN to push for SME development. Our growing relationship with ASEAN benefits our own SMEs and exporters in terms of low tariff on intermediate goods. Our growth in trade within ASEAN has contributed to our economy’s resiliency,” said Undersecretary for International Trade Adrian S. Cristobal Jr.

By 2015, ASEAN envisions an ASEAN Economic Community with the following key characteristics: a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region with equitable economic development, and a region fully integrated into the global economy.  –Ayen Infante, Daily Tribune