Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
Small and Medium Enterprise Ministerial Meeting
"Assisting SMEs in Internationalization and Supporting the Export-Oriented SMEs"
Friday, August 3, 2012
St. Petersburg, Russia
As prepared for delivery
At the outset, allow me to express what an honor it is to be here and serve as the SME Minister on behalf of the United States.
Over the years, it’s been a privilege to work with APEC partners to achieve the common goals of expanded opportunity and greater prosperity for our peoples.
And I’m glad that we can continue this work today with these important conversations.
As we all know, small-and medium enterprises are a key to the growth and futures of our economies.
In fact, right now — throughout the Asia-Pacific region — there are new SMEs operating that are working to become the leading entrepreneurs of tomorrow, helping to drive innovation, put people to work and fuel healthy economic development.
That’s why we’ve got to give SMEs every opportunity to succeed.
As many of you witnessed firsthand last year, trade and SME Ministers met jointly for the first time in Big Sky, Montana at the 18th SME Ministerial Meeting.
There, they committed to addressing nine of the top barriers that SMEs face when trying to trade in the region.
The SME Working Group was assigned to address four important issues:
- lack of access to financing;
- lack of capacity to operate internationally;
- excessive transportation and related costs;
- and the need for open and transparent business environments;
APEC economies have worked diligently to reach some important benchmarks in these areas.
I thank you all for your important efforts.
And please know that the U.S. continues to be committed to this work.
In particular, the Commerce Department — with the great support of APEC colleagues — has made headway on these barriers.
I’d like to highlight two today: access to financing and the need for transparency.
Regarding lack of access to financing, last year, we identified a variety of financial products available through each economy’s export credit agencies to help SMEs.
These include working capital loans, such as those provided by the U.S. Export-Import Bank, to allow small business exporters to purchase inputs before their customers can pay the bill.
We took things further this year and submitted a proposal to APEC for an SME Trade Finance Conference, which will be held next March, on the margins of the thirty-sixth SME Working Group in the Philippines.
At the conference we will bring together:
- trade finance experts;
- APEC export credit agencies;
- multilateral banks; and
- SME policy officials.
Together, we will develop a list of best practices and recommended actions to help SMEs increase their participation in trade.
We welcome and encourage the participation of all APEC economies in the conference.
And I would like to thank the Philippines for its assistance in hosting.
The second barrier the U.S. has focused on that I want to highlight today is the need for an open and transparent business environment.
Considering that corruption costs the private sector greatly each year, there is a clear need to establish ethics codes in a range of key sectors to create a level playing field.
Simply put — businesses deserve to operate in a fair and just economic climate.
Over the past 18 months, we’ve implemented several workshops to help eliminate corruption in three industry sectors of great export interest to SMEs:
- medical devices;
- biopharmaceuticals; and
- construction and engineering.
As a result, last year, three separate sets of ethics principles were established that now serve as the foundation for voluntary codes of ethics for these sectors.
And this year, we secured multi-year APEC funding to continue work in the business ethics space.
The United States strongly recommends that relevant stakeholders from APEC economies implement voluntary codes consistent with the drafted principles.
We also urge APEC economies to work with their private sector partners to advance both the acceptance of voluntary industry codes and ethical collaborations consistent with the developed principles.
These codes will serve as the foundation for a “train-the-trainer” workshop in Malaysia next summer.
We will also hold a Stakeholder Awareness workshop in Indonesia on the margins of the 2013 APEC SME Ministerial Meeting.
I’m confident these efforts will be successful, because, together, we’ve done so much already.
Nineteen APEC economies began the medical device code writing process in Brunei.
Fifteen APEC economies began the biopharmaceutical code writing process in Chinese Taipei three weeks ago.
Together, we’ve achieved progress from China, to Peru, to Mexico and beyond.
I want to personally thank all of you here today for your enormous support on this work.
The work we’ve done since we were in Montana is truly the beginning of an important effort to help SMEs overcome trade barriers in the Asia-Pacific region.
I encourage my fellow SME Ministers to continue this great effort to promote internationalization and trade across the region.I would now like to turn to my colleague from the United States Small Business Administration —Dario Gomez — to highlight the work that the United States is conducting to help our SMEs at home internationalize.
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