| Photo by Shashi Bellamkonda via Flickr/Commons CC BY 2.0
NEW ZEALAND — Ministers responsible for small and medium enterprises in APEC vowed to continue addressing the needs of small businesses with relief programs as the region moves through the subsequent phases of COVID pandemic response and recovery.
At the 27th APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting, ministers convened virtually, Oct. 9, with a collective goal to strengthen the resilience of small businesses across the Asia-Pacific region, focusing on digitalization, inclusive growth, and well-being. Stuart Nash, New Zealand’s Minister for Small Business, chaired the meeting.
In his opening remarks, he reiterated the role of small businesses as “the powerhouses of our economies and communities.” “They unite our communities,” Nash said. “The survival and resilience of our small businesses through this pandemic is critical to a sustainable economic recovery and maintaining the cohesion of our communities.”
Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) account for more than 97 percent of businesses in the APEC region, employing more than 60 percent of the workforce and comprising 40 to 60 percent of economic growth in most economies.
Nash urged members to acknowledge the essential role of trade in enabling a robust economic recovery for the region’s small businesses in the face of a global pandemic.
“Our economies need to take bold action to enhance MSMEs and start-ups, ensuring access to international markets and supply chains by facilitating an open and inclusive trade and investment environment,” Nash said.
APEC Ministers acknowledged the critical importance of digitalization as an enabler of effective recovery from economic shocks. They agreed that the adoption of digital solutions and tools is no longer optional but necessary.
“Rapid innovation and digital technologies have supported us to overcome many of the significant obstacles we’ve faced as a result of COVID-19, such as the restricted movement of goods and people,” Nash said. “There are huge opportunities for APEC economies to enhance cooperation around adopting digital technologies and innovation to create more efficient and resilient futures for us all.”
Nash also called on member economies to ensure that policies deliver economic opportunity for all, including women, Indigenous peoples, and other vulnerable groups. A greater focus on inclusive growth will open untapped economic potential.
“Building small businesses’ resilience also needs to take into consideration the well-being of the owners,” Nash added. “By reducing disparities and improving the well-being of small businesses’ owners, APEC economies can increase engagement and productivity, and thus underpin economic stability and growth and enhance the overall well-being of our communities.”
Small businesses also have a significant role to play in fostering an environmentally sustainable recovery. APEC Ministers agreed to create an enabling environment for small businesses to engage in innovative, environmentally sustainable practices and activities.
Following the meeting, the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Ministers issued a joint statement focusing on continuing the support for the region’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement also promotes the inclusive development of sustainable, resilient, digitally enabled, and innovative MSMEs for recovery.