During the APEC Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Fourth Ministerial Meeting (Ottawa, Canada, Sept 18-19, 1997) where about 32 of us youth leaders then attended, we were all so excited and proud when the joint statement was released, 19. Ministers also heard from young entrepreneurs who actively participated in the Business Forum. Ministers welcomed the recommendations from the young entrepreneurs at their "Business 5 Leaders of Tomorrow" meeting. The Ministers supported their objective to promote a culture of entrepreneurial spirit, economic growth and to encourage greater cross-cultural understanding among youth to meet the needs of a globally competitive economy. Ministers directed the PLG to assist the young entrepreneur associations to achieve their objectives . Ministers noted that several of the key initiatives being undertaken in the next year would actively promote the growth and development of young entrepreneurs in Asia-Pacific. Ministers underlined the strong contribution of SMEs to economic activity within the APEC region, and their impact on intra-regional trade and investment. SMEs comprise over 90 percent of all enterprises in the region; contribute between 30-60 percent of GDP of APEC economies; generate about 35 percent of the region’s exports; and account for between 32-84 percent of employment in APEC economies (Courtesy of the APEC.org)
I have to state though this was prior to the internet boom age so a lot of the priorities were of course more basic then for small and medium industries in the region especially for developing countries. Frameworks were on access to markets, technology, capital, financing, human resources, and information.
During that time my belief was the challenge lay mostly on access to markets, " Ministers welcomed the progress made in reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, and encouraged action on harmonization of customs procedures, better protection for intellectual property, and improvement of the investment environment. They encouraged the work undertaken to establish best practices studies and seminars on market development." (Courtesy of apec.org)
Decades later of course a lot has happen to the world in terms of global change, economic change, leadership change and the like. As I read the Detroit meeting in May 2023, Statement of the Chair - Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting 2023, I still believe access to market still continues, " We reiterate our strong commitment towards the achievement of the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, including through the implementation of the Aotearoa Plan of Action, to realize an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040, for the prosperity of all our people and future generations. We reaffirm our determination to deliver a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, inclusive and predictable trade and investment environment. We also reaffirm the importance of and commit to upholding and further strengthening the rules-based multilateral trading system, with the WTO at its core. We will continue to work to ensure a level playing field to foster a favorable trade and investment environment and reaffirm our commitment to keep markets open and to address supply chain disruptions" (Courtesy of apec.org)
Access to Technology then is now Digital Technology. " Digital technology and innovation have a greater role to play in advancing inclusive and sustainable growth. We reaffirm our call to accelerate the implementation of the APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap, which prioritizes actions that support inclusive, sustainable and innovative economic growth, including the facilitation of e-commerce and advancing cooperation on digital trade. We welcome the ‘Principles for the Interoperability of Electronic Invoicing Systems in the APEC Region’ (Annex 1), which promote interoperable approaches and the use of digital technologies to facilitate trade and investment. We will accelerate digital transformation and cooperate on facilitating the flow of data and strengthening business and consumer trust in digital transactions, including through cooperation on regulatory approaches regarding the internet and digital economy as well as consumer protection in the digital environment. We also stress the importance of bridging all forms of digital divides by strengthening digital infrastructure and facilitating access to information and communication technology goods and services, and ensuring that no one is left behind by equipping all people with the necessary skills needed to thrive in the digital economy." (Courtesy or apec.org)
And of course, Climate and Environment is a big focus today, "We remain actively engaged in overcoming shared challenges related to the environment, including climate change, food security, supply chain disruptions, and impacts of the global pandemic, and recognize the positive role that trade can play in building greater resilience to confront these and future challenges. We encourage the promotion of trade and investment in products that lead to positive environmental outcomes, such as those which are energy- and resource-efficient and reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions, including through circular economy approaches. We instruct officials to begin work to develop a Framework of Discussions for Producing an APEC Reference List of Environmental Goods in support of developing a new, voluntary, non-binding APEC Reference List of Environmental Goods in accordance with the agreed recommendations. We welcome continued implementation of the APEC Work Plan on Environmental Goods and cooperation in the area of environmental goods. As a means to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth, building on our previous work, we are also committed to promoting intellectual property rights through policies and programs that advance innovation and creativity. We recalled our commitment to rationalize and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, while providing those in need with essential energy services." (Courtesy of apec.org)
So as the mission from 1997 to 2023 continues trade and industry towards economic stabilization especially for the SME's is what I would like to remind our leaders of APEC. Yes, there are global big political matters on hand which as you notice I did not touch base. As I would like to go back to the basic on the small and medium enterprises, economies, women, youth, businesses the original concept then.
As we near the coming APEC 2023 CEO Summit in San Francisco, CA a lot of big issues with the leaders will come up again. What is it that want to achieve in APEC 2024 and beyond?