In the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), SMEs find themselves in increasing international competition, sharing a single market of countries that produce similar products and services. In this context of competing internationally in sectors like agriculture and tourism, it is crucial to foster the competiveness of SMEs, especially in developing local production. In order to exploit the potential of the AEC and minimize the risks that come with it, SMEs must be fully prepared and integrated and must approach new business opportunities.
To promote the preparedness of SMEs in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) for these challenges, Mekong Institute, in collaboration with the Office of Commercial Affairs Khon Kaen, organized a two-day International Seminar on “Promoting Opportunities for Trade, Investment, and Tourism in the GMS” on March 3-4, 2016. Held at Centara Hotel & Convention Centre, Khon Kaen, the seminar focused on opportunities for the “One Tambol One Product (OTOP) – Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)” in the agriculture and tourism sectors in Thailand, and businesses from the GMS countries.
The One Tambol, One Product (OTOP), a success story in rural development practice in Thailand, is a local cultural initiative. Since its establishment by the government of Thailand in 2001, OTOP fostered employment opportunities and income generation by employing local resources and indigenous wisdom, and supported the conservation of cultural heritages. OTOP’s efforts develop human resources, holding back the rural-urban migration and easing the increasingly deteriorated urban population pressure, and secure balanced social and economic development.
In order to better prepare OTOP-SMEs for market access and integration into AEC by improving productivity and competitiveness through business cooperation, MI’s International Seminar gave more than 180 participants the chance to gain information about the current trade and investment trends and to prepare themselves for growing opportunities in the GMS. The seminar provided an enabling environment for cooperation among the stakeholders in the public and private sectors and received strong support to promote OTOP in the GMS.
After being welcomed by Mr. Sitthiporn Bangkeaw, Director of the Office of Commercial Affairs Khon Kaen, Mr. Siwarot Mongmaiporn Deputy Governor of Khon Kaen Province, and Dr. Watcharas Leelawath, MI Executive Director, the speakers elaborated on the significance of promoting opportunities for trade, investment and tourism to OTOP-SMEs in Thailand and the GMS with the formation of AEC. They urged the participants to join hands to strengthen cooperation and business network.
Focusing on the thematic areas : (i) Enhancing Competitiveness for GMS Businesses in the context of AEC, (ii) Attractive Destination for Overseas Investors, and (iii) Promoting Tourism as a Main Driver for GMS Growth, the seminar provided an active platform for the speakers to present information, share experiences and best practices in specific sectors, and discuss with the participants representing OTOP-SMEs, government officials, and business owners of leading companies in the GMS countries. The discussion focused on important issues to enhanced market linkages, physical connectivity, public and private partnership (PPP) in investment and trade development, and development of tourism industries in the GMS.
As Dr. Watcharas emphasized at the closing remark, in order to ensure inclusive growth and common market in the sub-region, SMEs, government sectors and related agencies have to apply the 5 Cs principle including Connectivity, Capacity building, Cooperation, Creativity, and Coordination. That way it will be possible for SMEs to find themselves in an international market that truly provides a win-win situation.