Launch of US-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive SMEs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and US-ASEAN Business Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today to create the US-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs). The MOU was signed by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Council President Alexander Feldman, and Procter & Gamble Vice President Carolyn Brehm as the representative of the Council’s ASEAN committee.

The Business Alliance will combine the efforts of USAID and major U.S. corporations to develop the capacity and boost competitiveness of SMEs in the ASEAN region. The Business Alliance will use training programs, mentorship opportunities, and cloud technology to support SMEs in the five key areas: access to finance; access to regional and international markets; human resource development; access to information and advisory services; and access to technology and innovation.

SMEs are the backbone of the ASEAN economy, accounting for more than 96 percent of all enterprises and for between 50 to 95 percent of all employment in many ASEAN Member States. Strengthening the capacities and capabilities of SMEs in ASEAN is among the highest impact interventions that can be made to accelerate growth in ASEAN and advance the interests of the ASEAN Economic Community.

“The US-ASEAN Business Council, through its ASEAN Committee led by Procter & Gamble, UPS, HP, GE, and Microsoft, is proud to announce the launch of an innovative public-private partnership with USAID to expand support to SMEs in ASEAN.  This partnership will build on the Council’s widely praised SME training program created at the request of the ASEAN Economic Ministers in 2011,” said Council President Alexander Feldman. “The Council and USAID’s new ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment program will partner to expand the resources, scope and diversity of SME training in the run-up to the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. As in the U.S., SMEs in ASEAN are a critical part of the economy which will continue to power Southeast Asia in the years to come.”

“By investing in high-potential businesses, this partnership advances broad-based, sustainable economic growth across the region,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “It will empower entrepreneurs, promote job creation and provide opportunity at all levels of society, particularly for women and youth.”

“The success of the ASEAN Economic Community depends to a large extent on the success of ASEAN SMEs. By investing in their growth we can help to unlock their potential to transform the economy and create jobs, drive innovation, and compete across the region and globally,” said Carolyn Brehm of Procter & Gamble. “As Chair of the ASEAN Committee of USABC, Procter & Gamble is grateful to have the support of the Council and its members in developing this partnership with USAID. We hope that this Business Alliance for Competitive SMEs will play a key role in advancing broad based growth and prosperity in ASEAN leading up to and beyond AEC 2015.”

“UPS has been proud to support the Council’s SME program in training over 300 representatives of small businesses in ASEAN,” said Leslie Griffin, Senior Vice President of International Public Policy for UPS.  “Through this new partnership, we are excited to expand the program to reach more SMEs and help them integrate into global supply chains.”

The ASEAN Ambassadors in Washington D.C. attended the launch, and Burma’s Ambassador to the U.S. U Kyaw Myo Htut, the current Chair of the ASEAN Washington Committee, also made remarks. ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh sent a brief statement from Jakarta.

“Public-private partnership is essential to capture the true benefits of ASEAN economic integration towards 2015 and beyond,” said Secretary-General Minh.  “Both as contributors and beneficiaries of connected markets, ASEAN-based SMEs should be encouraged to participate fully in the regional and global economy,” he added.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is leading the U.S. Government’s efforts to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies.