Officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) recently held meetings in the Philippines to discuss ways to improve trade and investment in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on helping Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The roadshow was attended by various officials including the Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, Asian Development Bank Officials, The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry leadership, and ASEAN-BAC Chair of the Philippines Joey Concepcion.
During the meeting, ASEAN-BAC partnered with KADIN Indonesia’s Chairman, Arsjad Rasjid, to improve bilateral relationships between the Philippines and Indonesia. The roadshow served multiple purposes, with five goals identified by ASEAN-BAC Alternate Chair Bernardino Vega, which included:
1. Digital transformation
3. Trade facilitation
4. Sustainable development
5. Food security
One of the key outcomes of the roadshow was the plan to combine the Wiki Wirausaha platform and ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN) to create a space where MSMEs can promote and sell their products to the whole ASEAN region. This will make it easier and more cost-efficient for businesses to access customers across ASEAN countries. MSMEs in the region currently make up about 90% of businesses and over 85% of the ASEAN workforce, highlighting the importance of supporting these businesses.
The roadshow also aimed to reach every country in the ASEAN region to hear firsthand from businesses situated in each place and see how they can help with trade and investment, making sure it is inclusive and no one is left behind. Indonesia is a major player in the Philippine trading industry, with a total trade value of $9.5 billion annually. Indonesia has vowed to abide by the Philippines First Policy, a policy that ensures agricultural goods for importation from the Philippines are prioritized.
To further improve bilateral partnership with Indonesia, ASEAN-BAC Board Council Member Maspiyono suggested removing the Special Safeguard Tax (SSG), which is used to protect the domestic industry but sometimes implementation is dragged out for too long. He said that it might be good only for a year or two, but afterwards, it’s better to have it lifted up. This will lower costs for sellers, creating a domino effect, reducing the cost for buyers as well.
The roadshow demonstrated the commitment of ASEAN-BAC to help MSMEs in the Philippines and the wider ASEAN region. By partnering with KADIN Indonesia and focusing on five key areas. The combination of the Wiki Wirausaha platform and AMEN will create a space for MSMEs to promote their products and services across the region, helping to make trade more accessible and cost-efficient.