Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has called on APEC member economies to accelerate efforts to enable small- and medium-sized enterprises to capitalise on new trade opportunities created by digital advances.
Speaking at the opening of the 24th APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting in HCM City on Friday, he said SMEs, the engines of growth and innovation in APEC economies, account for over 97 per cent of all companies and employ 60 per cent of the workforce.
“The birth of new technologies like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robot technology, nano-technology and 3D printing technology are changing mindsets as well as the way of making wealth and the lives of people world-wide.
“Small and medium-sized enterprises’ technology level, capital and management skills are still limited. These firms are very vulnerable but are also dynamic and adaptable.”
Therefore, providing SMEs with active support to boost their development, expand their scale, accelerate technological reform and improve productivity so that they make important contributions to socio-economic development is imperative, he said.
Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung, chair of the 24th APEC SME Ministerial Meeting, said the world economy is moving towards becoming a digital economy with the growing role of knowledge and technology.
“The old development model that was based on exploitation of available resources has become unstable, inefficient and unsustainable. We really need to move to a new paradigm based on innovation, improved productivity and product quality.”
Phuc said: “In order to achieve the objective of enhancing the competitiveness and innovation of SMEs, we need to co-operate to help businesses access the market and engage deeper with the global value chain, enable micro and SMEs to get access to new technologies, improve their management capacity and competitive edge, promote entrepreneurship and business ethics and develop a sustainable and environmentally friendly start-up eco-system to promote innovation by SMEs in the region.”
Viet Nam’s National Assembly has passed the Law on Support for Small-and Medium-sized Enterprises while its Government has announced many important policies to build a healthy and “inclusive” business environment, he said.
Viet Nam hopes for co-operation from other APEC members to enhance the capacity of its tax system to encourage businesses, fair competition, and prevent abuse of transfer pricing and tax evasion by some foreign investors, he added.
Dung said the rapid development of digital technology and the ever-changing global economy require SMEs support agencies to keep abreast of the changes to create a favourable environment and apply appropriate supportive methods to foster innovation at SMEs.
Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, Sim Ann, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State of Trade and Industry and Culture, Community and Youth, said: “APEC is a great platform for economies to share best practices.
“We are learning a lot from each other in terms of learning the landscape faced by SMEs and different economies, and also in terms of what are some of the good practices that public sector agencies can adopt to help SMEs be more competitive, for instance in terms of digitalisation, technology adoption.
“I think among economies there are good experiences to be shared.”
Dr Alan Bollard, executive director of the APEC Secretariat, said the meeting is an important part of the APEC year, because “we are trying to help small businesses become more involved in the regional economy. That means stronger growth for them, and with new forms of digital technology, electronic commerce, supply chain, they have more opportunity.”
The meeting also discussed the SME ministers’ statements that will contain a number of initiatives for small business development in the APEC region, he said. “If they agree with that, they will send them to the leaders in Da Nang for November [APEC Economic Leaders’ Week].”