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Engaging with ASEAN’s economic ministers

ASEAN BAC members and entrepreneurs together with DTI Sec. Ramon Lopez (fourth from left) and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström (sixth from left): Henry Lim Bon Liong (Sterling Group), George Barcelon (PCCI and ASEAN BAC Philippines), Tan Sri Rebecca Fatima Sta. Maria, Dr. Mohd Munir Majid (ASEAN BAC Malaysia), author Joey Concepcion, Dato Ramesh Kodammal (ASEAN BAC Malaysia), and Rep. Arthur Yap

In line with our hosting of ASEAN, the economic ministers had their retreat and other related meetings last week, hosted by its chairman, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez. The ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) was fortunate enough to engage with them, providing an avenue for us members to lay out our plans for this year and beyond.

As chairman of ASEAN BAC, I shared the council’s vision of helping MSMEs in the region. MSMEs account for almost 95-99 percent of the total enterprise in ASEAN. Since they are the majority, it is important for us to help bring prosperity to them and experience inclusive growth in the region.

During the discussion, I presented the three key pillars of ASEAN BAC: first, we are promoting inclusive business in the region, where big-brother companies are helping small-brother companies by including them in the value chain. ASEAN companies will then help these small players gain access to the global market.

Second, micro entrepreneurs can also benefit from the mentorship they can get from successful and inspiring medium and large entrepreneurs. We are launching the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN), which will create a pool of mentors from ASEAN’s 10 countries.

Lastly, ASEAN BAC aims to continue its participation and contribution to government policy-making and planning in line with the Strategic Action Plan for MSMEs, which was launched by the ASEAN leaders in 2015.

Dr. Munir Mujid, ASEAN BAC chair Malaysia, discussed the platforms for funding MSMEs. Dr. Robert Yap, ASEAN BAC chair Singapore, also presented their plans to strengthen ASEAN connectivity, which includes four programs: Malaysia’s Financial Connectivity Project; Laos’ Connect Project; Philippines and Indonesia’s ASEAN Maritime Connectivity through RORO; and AMEN. Other ASEAN BAC members and executive director Gil Gonzales also joined the engagement.

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Afterwards, we enjoyed the camaraderie brought by the simple cocktails and dinner hosted by DTI. Filipino entrepreneurs and government officials played great hosts to the ASEAN Economic Ministers and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.


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