The Internationalization of SMEs: Opportunity for EU-ASEAN Partnerships
By admin September 27, 2016

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July 15 witnessed the launch of the European Union (EU) Business Avenues in Southeast Asia, a European Commission funded program that aims to bring up to 1000 European Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs) on business missions to the region over the next five-years. In the EU, SMEs represent 99 percent of all businesses, providing 80 million jobs or two thirds of all private sector employment. However, within a group of more than 20 million SMEs present in Europe, 600,000 are exporting goods. In fact, SMEs face many barriers when it comes to internationalization and exporting such as lack of managerial skills, specific domestic policies and indeed trade barriers that imply higher costs; therefore, in light of these challenges the EU Business Avenues to Southeast Asia provides the perfect platform to drive the internationalization of SMEs.

Following a successful pilot in Japan and Korea, the EU Business Avenues has expanded, targeting six ASEAN markets: Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, and covering seven main sectors, including: Environment & Water Technologies, Green Energy Technologies, Construction Building Technologies, Healthcare & Medical Technologies, Information & Communication Technologies, Contemporary European Design and Food & Beverage.

Each business mission will use Singapore as a hub before moving on to at least one other Southeast Asian market. According to the EU Ambassador and Head of the EU Delegation to Singapore, Dr. Michael Pulch, European companies will have the opportunity to tap into this new market showcasing innovative technologies that will help them to identify potential local partners while on missions. Companies will have to go through an intensive recruitment process and those selected will receive high-level training.

The first business mission on the Environment and Water Technology sector took place in July, firstly in Singapore during the International Water Week, and then to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Thirty-eight European Companies showcased their new developed technologies, which found a lot of interest among both Singaporean and Vietnamese stakeholders, as representatives from the private and public sector visited the EU Business Avenues Pavilion. Following the successful first business mission, a second one on the Green Energy sector will take place in October 2016 and it will bring up to forty-five European companies to Singapore and Malaysia, followed by a third one in March 2017 in Singapore and Indonesia.

The importance of the EU Business Avenues program rests on the opportunity given to European SMEs to enter into difficult markets, such as Southeast Asia, and to create potential business partnerships with local companies. The internationalization of SMEs is a long and difficult transition, which for many companies represent a springboard to successful business partnerships.

Indeed, the program also demonstrates the EU’s commitments in creating strong and long-term relationships with Southeast Asian countries. While the Free Trade Agreements with Singapore and Vietnam are in the process of ratification, the EU is currently conducting negotiations with the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Considering the heavy focus in the region, and increasing potential for further growth, the EU Business Avenues will ultimately strengthen ongoing integration and cooperation between Europe and its emerging partners.

For more information:

EU-Singapore Trade & Investment 2016

EU Business Avenues

European Union launches business missions in South East Asia

SME in EU to plan business missions here

EU launches programme for SMEs seeking to enter Southeast Asia

EU-ASEAN trade negotiations

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