Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – This week, the United States hosted an APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group workshop, “Enhancing MSMEs’ Access to the Digital Economy” in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The workshop’s roughly 100 participants represented a range of sectors, including policymakers from member economies, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, and other third party partners, like GIF. The workshop focused on policy solutions to help improve micro, small and medium enterprises’, or MSMEs’, engagement in the digital economy (only 3 per cent of MSMEs in APEC are currently online) by examining the opportunities and challenges they currently face.

GIF Deputy Director Kaveri Marathe moderated a panel discussion examining the challenges MSMEs face as they attempt to engage in e-commerce, export, accept online payments, and more. The session’s panelists were:

  • Sam Hui, Founder and Managing Director of Hong Kong Media Pro Limited and Ideal Radio Limited;
  • Rick Yvanovich, CEO of TRG International, Vietnam;
  • Sean Preston, VISA Country Manager for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos;
  • Dr. Ian Opperman, Chief Data Scientist for the NSW Data Analytics Centre.

The presentations and conversation highlighted several key issues in the region for MSMEs. One was the need for MSMEs to be online in order to capture data they can analyze to target sales in order to keep up with international competitors. Another was the difficulties MSMEs face when they attempt to secure start-up funding and the reluctance of banks to lend.

A panel on opportunities for MSMEs presented low-entry-barrier methods for engaging online, such as creating a Facebook business page and selling on an e-commerce platform like Mexican startup, Kichink. A later panel on suggestions to improve policy included creating a commercially meaningful de-minimis value across APEC and streamlining logistics and customs clearance processes at the border.

About the Global Innovation Forum

The Global Innovation Forum (GIF) is dedicated to fostering a better understanding of the policy foundations that underpin the ability of startups, researchers, universities, NGOs and companies of all sizes to innovate and engage globally in the digital age. Through public forums, private workshops and online activities, GIF connects innovative business, startup, university and development communities to explore the opportunities and challenges of engaging in the international marketplace and the impact that public policies can have on global innovation. GIF is a project of the National Foreign Trade Council Foundation.