Product Market Identification for GMS Countries – Regional Training Program, April 29 – May 3, 2013, Khon Kaen, Thailand

May 7, 2013

Friday (May 3) marked the completion of the one-week 'Product Market Identification for GMS countries' training program, held at MI headquarters in Khon Kaen. The training course is the latest in a range of programs and activities organized by the Trade and Facilitation Department (TIF) under the three year, joint MI – New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Aid Programme, 'Capacity Building for Integrating CLMV Economies into AEC 2015,' which aims to propagate and nurture cluster formation to accelerate integration of local GMS-based SMEs into regional and global value chains through enhanced utilization of GMS free trade agreements.

The GMS is a hub of production for products and commodities demanded throughout the world. Cheap production costs and high-quality output characterizes regional production, giving GMS-based SMEs a competitive advantage in the global market. In order to transform these advantages into tangible economic gains, however, it will be essential that these local SMEs and producers develop the skills and knowledge necessary to access regional and global markets and keep-up with continuously changing consumer demands and preferences.

A capacity-needs assessment study on SME and trade development conducted from December 2012 – January 2013 by MI's TIF department in the CLMV countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam), identified the lack of knowledge and skills in market identification as a priority area requiring attention. The 'Product Market Identification for GMS Countries' training course follows-on from the recommendations of this study and seeks to ultimately guide the development of systematic procedures and processes of obtaining external market information to help small-scale GMS-based SMEs compete on the regional and global stage.

A total of 30 participants from all six GMS countries (Cambodia (5), Lao PDR (6), Myanmar (6), Thailand (3), Vietnam (6) and Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of PR China (4)) attended the training program, representing both private and public organizations, including various ministries of commerce and industry, local chambers of commerce and industry, industry associations and SME and business training institutes.

Participants underwent five modules covering the conceptual and practical aspects of market identification, ranging from the use of online trade databases and market analysis tools to understanding competition in target markets and market access requirements such as tariff and non-tariff barriers. The training followed a modular approach requiring participants to internalize and process new information through a, 'learn to do, do to learn, share to learn,' based approach.

"The program was unique for this region in the way it approached market identification in over 200 countries through the use of trademap databases to develop market intelligence for 120 products from the GMS," states Madhurjya Dutta, Program Manager of MI's TIF department. "The course offered participants knowledge and skills which can be used to enhance the capacities of SME exporters to explore potential markets. It addresses the needs of public policy makers to assist the development of suitable policies to support SME exportable products while also meeting the needs of potential and existing exporters who must learn to identify new markets and opportunities in order to grow and prosper."

Upon conclusion of the course, participants identified 20 products (per country) with external market potential. Over the next two months, the participants will conduct product studies to validate market prospects using their newly enhanced skills and tools. The collected information will be collated into the product market identification software to be utilized by GMS-based producers seeking to send their products to external markets for higher returns.

Nguyen Pham Ha Minh, a participant from the Centre of Business Studies and Assistance (BSA), Vietnam, commented that, "This course has been helpful for me because now I can tell our SME members which country they should go to sell their products and, if you go to that country, what the barriers are. Before this, the information out there (among our local SMEs) just came from the experiences of other SME operators; it wasn't systematic. This course has allowed me to understand the market opportunities and potentials in a systematic way. The development of the market information software, in particular, will give us a valuable tool, because we will know exactly where to get relevant, up-to-date market information."

Ms. Borivon Phafong, Director of the GSC Garment Skills Development Centre (TDF Project), Lao PDR, echoed a similar sentiment, saying, "The course has had a lot of benefits for me in terms of the development of both hard and soft skills. I particularly liked the modular training system approach which guided me through the process and systems which our SMEs need to develop; from indentifying the potential products and getting to know the markets through to the utilization of tools to help us to identify products, markets, competitors, and potential barriers. As a result, my association will be able to better support our members."

Participants will meet once again at MI headquarters in October for the follow-up synthesis and evaluation workshop. The workshop will offer participants a chance to share their experiences and the results of their product validation studies, while also providing a platform through which to introduce and the new market identification software which will be ready for use and dissemination among local producers, exporters and trade facilitation organizations and associations.

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