Siem Reap, Cambodia – The US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC), working with Google and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), held a breakfast roundtable on ASEAN Tech Talks prior to the launching of the joint report by Google and ICC on ASEAN micro, medium, and small enterprises (MSMEs) and Digital Exports on Friday, September 16, 2022. The roundtable was part of the Council’s ongoing SME Program and a sideline event to the 54th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ (AEM) Meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
“It is vital to support SMEs’ growth, especially in this digitalization era. Digital adoption will contribute to the competitiveness of SMEs by reducing costs, increasing revenue, and expanding market access. SMEs can also harness digital tools to gain a better understanding of specific consumer behaviors and preferences. SMEs now have the ability to participate directly in global supply chains through e-commerce platforms. To ensure SMEs can use these technologies effectively, it is critical to administer necessary support and trainings on a regular basis. We hope today’s SME Program is one such platform, and also a part of Cambodia’s legacy as ASEAN Chair” said Ambassador Michael Michalak, Senior Vice President & Regional Managing Director, US-ASEAN Business Council.
During the event, Google and ICC presented the initial results of their ongoing research regarding the challenges and opportunities of digital exports for ASEAN MSMEs. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant increase in digital exports within the MSME business community in ASEAN countries, with more than 80% of surveyed enterprises increasing their use of digital tools in the past 2 years. However, there remain significant barriers that prevent MSMEs from seizing the full potential of digital trade, disproportionality impacting small businesses across the region. There is an urgent need for multi-stakeholder action to further empower the small business community through both well-calibrated policy initiatives that can effectively reduce barriers to digital trade, and tailored training opportunities that can help upskill MSMEs in their use of digital tools and solutions.
As a commitment to the ASEAN digital economy, Google and ICC also announced that they are co-creating a curriculum to train 1000 ASEAN MSMEs in digital export-relevant skills. The training program will be implemented by the ICC Centres of Entrepreneurship, in collaboration with the ICC Academy, the International Trade Center (ITC), and the network of Chambers of Commerce and ICC National Committees in Southeast Asia.
“Digital technologies are creating opportunities for small businesses to trade and reach international markets in ways impossible a generation ago, but those opportunities are not always easy to seize. Google is excited to collaborate with the ICC and the ITC to develop a training curriculum to help address this gap in ASEAN -- and better enable MSMEs to fully benefit from the growing digital economy.” said Karan Bhatia, Vice President, Government Affairs and Public Policy, Google.
“Smaller businesses and entrepreneurs are the backbone of the real economy. Through this partnership with Google, ICC is committed to delivering trusted, quality training to help SMEs harness the opportunities of digital trade. The goal is to ensure our global know-how and solutions benefit business communities and the communities they serve, in Asia and beyond.” said John W.H. Denton AO, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce.
H. E. Pan Sorasak, Minister of Commerce of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy, U. S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, and Mr. Le Quang Lan, Director for Market Integration Directorate of the ASEAN Economic Community Department, The ASEAN Secretariat all opened the session with remarks. The event was attended by prominent ASEAN high officials, the business community, and Cambodian MSMEs.
This research will leverage quantitative data from roughly 1500 MSMEs in 10 markets across the region, and will help inform both policy initiatives and tailored training programmes to help MSMEs engage in digital trade. The research will also assess the export readiness of ASEAN MSMEs, highlight the main barriers that they currently face in their export journey and provide insights into the critical role of digital technologies in promoting trade and continued growth within the MSME community. The full report will be published in early October.