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Listing 95 publications.

Enhancing the Utilization of FTA by SMEs

Enhancing the Utilization of FTA by SMEs

Category: Completion Reports, Trade and Investment Facilitation
Year: 2013

Written by Mekong Institute

The Mekong Institute (MI) conducted a one-week Training of Trainer (ToT) program on "Enhancing the Utilization of FTA by SMEs" from June 17-21, 2013 at its Residential Training Center in Khon Kaen, Thailand. This ToT program is part of the three-year project on "Capacity Building for the Integration of CLMV Economies into ASEAN Economic Community" from 2012-2014, funded by New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP).

Twenty-eight (28) participants from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Vietnam and China attended this training program comprising of senior and mid level officials from private sector bodies, namely chambers of commerce and industry, business associations, exporters and importers from the GMS countries.

The program aimed to develop the capacities of the participants to deepen their understanding and improve their knowledge with the necessary skills for greater utilization of FTAs in the regional and global trade. This training applied a Training of Trainer (ToT) approach to build up capacities of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, business association, SME exporters, BDS providers and officials from the government agencies so that they can localize and replicate the ToT package in the respective countries.

Dr. Tamanna Chaturvedi from Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), India, acted as resource person to deliver specific topics on WTO, RTA/FTA, tariff negotiation, tariff reduction, NTM, trade facilitation, ROO, and FTA utilization and evaluation. Mr. Madhurjya Kumar Dutta, an in-house resource person, shared a session on evaluating status of SME in GMS countries, and Dr. Nittana Southiseng shared a session on assessing business opportunities for SMEs in integration of AEC 2015. The training program was delivered through four inter-related modules:

Module 1: Understanding the conceptual framework of an RTA/FTA and its implications in regional SME Context
Module 2: Understanding negotiating issues in FTA: case study of FTAs signed by GMS
Module 3: Accessing trade benefits of FTA: case study of AFTA
Module 4: Promoting the utilization of FTAs by SMEs as per the regional and international requirements

As part of the training requirements, the participants developed action plans to localize training packages to conduct National Workshop on Enhancing the Utilization of FTA by SMEs in CLMV countries and China – to transfer the knowledge gained to the local SME exporters, CCIs, BAs and government agencies in their respective countries. The national workshops will be organized within three months period from June to August 2013, before reconvening at MI in October 2013.

Strengthening Coordinated Cross Border Systems in CLMV

Strengthening Coordinated Cross Border Systems in CLMV

Category: Completion Reports, Trade and Investment Facilitation
Year: 2013

Written by Mekong Institute

The training course on "Strengthening Coordinated Cross Border Systems in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam - CLMV" was conducted on 2 to 11 September 2013 at the Mekong Institute Residential Training Center, Khon Kaen, Thailand. The course was co-sponsored by Thailand International Development Cooperation Agency (TICA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thailand and Singapore Cooperation Program, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore. Course participants were mid-level civil servants who are involved in cross-border procedure such as officers from customs, immigration and sanitary and phyto-sanitary departments of CLMV countries.

The general objectives of the course were to enhance the participants' appreciation of the urgency to facilitate Asian Single Window (ASW) and improve their knowledge and skills on coordinated cross border management in an inter-active and shared learning environment.

Twenty-five participants from relevant ministries and government agencies in Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam attended the training. The participants gave an over-all rating of 3.93 (well attained) on the achievement of the training objectives. According to the participants, the training responded to their expectations, experiences and employed effective training delivery methods.

The project was delivered in four modules to equip participants with basic concepts on Asian Economic Cooperation, Cross-Border Transportation and Single Window and encourage appreciating the cross-border coordination to enhance the more systematic service delivery to the national and cross-border economic development.

Module-1: The first session of Module 1 allowed trainers to prepare the groundwork, break the ice and give the overview of the training workshop and adult learning principles. The second session provided the overview for the importance of coordinated cross border management in the context of the ASEAN Single Window system and Cross Border Transport Agreement, as well as the Best Practices of Cross-Border Management from Singapore.

Module-2: This module facilitated enhancing knowledge and competencies towards efficient, professional and ethical border management. Such as understanding of the functions of immigration controls, the threats that they face and the importance of travel and identity documents in the control process, the efforts in better management of visa application case loads, streamlining processes, eliminate time-consuming administrative functions, improving service standards and combating frauds.

Modul-3: This module exposed participants to the GMS and ASEAN Customs Cooperation Framework and explored ways to simplify and harmonize cross-border customs regulations and procedures.

Module-4: Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) Measures, focused on the application of systems and regulations to ensure safety in food, animal and plant health in the cross border movement of food and agricultural commodities.

Learning methodologies included theoretical inputs such as lectures and presentations, as well as inter-active exercises, such as, small group discussions, case studies, videos, group discussions, field visits. The overall program evaluation show's that participants were satisfied with the learning content and methodologies. Project outcomes included knowledge and understanding of all components and mechanisms relating to cross-border procedure management, best practice from Singapore and Thailand on immigration and custom policy, and establishing good working relationship among participants from other Mekong countries. (Part IV Ways Forward)

Towards the end of the training, the participants' defined areas of priority actions that they would want to carry out in their respective countries, as well as recommendations common actions at the GMS-level and for future similar training.

Recommendations for future Cross border procedure training were:

  • Diverse, intense and in-depth examples on the linkage or simplification between customs and another inter-agency.
  • How Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) sector can get involved in single window and Cross-Border Transport Agreement (CBTA)?
  • Practical suggestions on how to prepare for 2015 AEC and Asian Single Window for all sectors involving in the cross-border issue, or in other words MI should include module/sessions facilitating technical learning.
  • Show the benefit or income for Government from practicing Asian Single Window (ASW) System.
  • Technical learning on how to link National Single Window to ASEAN Single window
  • Knowledge and understanding skills development in detecting of fraudulent documents
  • MI to organize the structured learning visit (SLV) for GMS members to visit other ASEAN members to physically observe the best practice case study for better understanding and learning of the practical implantation of the process.
  • Increase time for sharing more case studies on how SPS sector can be involved in the single window and CBTA?

Baseline Study and Training Needs Assessment on SME Cluster Development & FTAs in CLMV

Baseline Study and Training Needs Assessment on SME Cluster Development & FTAs in CLMV

Category: Completion Reports, Trade and Investment Facilitation
Year: 2013

Written by Mekong Institute

The three-year project (2012-14) on "Capacity Development Program for Integrating CLMV Economies into AEC" sponsored under the New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Aid Programme (NZAP) is being implemented by the Mekong Institute, Thailand.

The project aims to prepare the Mekong countries namely the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) for the successful integration of their economic systems into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. Among five components of the project, the Trade and Investment Facilitation Department of MI is tasked with the implementation of two components namely: (i) integrating CLMV's Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) into ASEAN and Global Value Chains and (ii) increasing capacity of public and private sectors' organizations in trade policy development, Free Trade
Agreement (FTA) negotiation and implementation.

In order to provide adequate information for the project inception report and resultsoriented M&E plan, a need assessment study was conducted in the CLMV countries. The aim was to identify the roles and responsibilities of the relevant stakeholders and assess their capacities and identify gaps to define capacity building needs for developing a capacity development plan and capacity building packages and strategies to respond to the needs within the framework of NZAP Project.

The assessment reveals that the prospect for consortia and SME clusters formation in the CLMV countries is potentially high, especially for products in handicraft and agro-based sector. However, the promotion of these activities is relatively weak, specifically in Myanmar and Cambodia, due to lack of knowledge and support services.

The assessment study observed that in the CLMV countries, although FTAs and bilateral agreements, mostly through ASEAN, have been concluded, their advantages have not yet been fully realized by export-oriented SMEs. The awareness of FTAs and related policies both among governments and private sectors is relatively low. Very few trainings or workshops on these issues have been conducted or if any, the SMEs participation seems to be quite limited.

The functionaries of SME and trade promotion agencies both in the government and private sector attend a range of capacity building programmes. The top level management deals with policy level issues and attends regional and internal events such as forums, seminar and dialogues whereas the mid level functionaries attends specific training on skill improvement, awareness, subject specific topics and training of trainers both within and outside the country. The top management level of private sector body (Chamber of Commerce and Industry) is mostly engaged policy advocacy forums. For the mid level functionaries, the types of training range from WTO, trade negotiations, AEC integration, trade fair and participation in trade exhibitions. It is noticed that there has been no specific training on FTAs or any training directed towards utilization of FTAs by SMEs.

Though a range of trainings either on SME development or Trade development has been attended by the practitioners, it was reported that the scope for applying those skills has been significantly low. The trainings in most cases do not reflect the roles and responsibilities of the functionaries mostly in case of mid and junior level functionaries.

Another, hurdle in the acquisition of skill and knowledge in trainings outside the country is the skill level which is not at par with participants from other countries in addition to low English language capabilities mostly among the junior level functionaries. Further, it was observed that most of the trainings attended abroad are advanced in nature and are not in consistent with the requirements of day to day functions of the organizations.

However, the trainings provided within projects which are implemented by the organizations and funded by donors are relevant since these are built in programmes to enhance capabilities of the implementing agencies. The study also identifies key organizations as focal point in the project countries. The role of the key organizations would be to coordinate all activities specific to their organizational mandate, assist in target participant recruitment and follow up action plan implementation and other assigned roles.

The importance of SME development through cluster approach is gaining ground as noticed in case of Vietnam and Cambodia however the knowledge is still limited particularly among the mid level and lower functionaries in all the CLMV countries.

With regard to FTAs, the knowledge seems to be limited particularly its utilization by SMEs. There is no systematic approach or attempt made in any of these countries to enhance utilization of FTAs by the SMEs.

The study acknowledges the importance to build capacities of the functionaries for SME cluster development and on enhancing utilization of FTAs by the SMEs. Since the role and functions of levels of functionaries are different, the study suggested specific capacity development packages for different level of functionaries and devise strategies to implement the two components of the project for the remaining two years of the project phase.

Enhancing Provincial and Local Chambers of Commerce  Capacities in Trade and Investment Facilitation along East-West  Economic Corridor (EWEC)

Enhancing Provincial and Local Chambers of Commerce Capacities in Trade and Investment Facilitation along East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC)

Category: Project Completion Reports, Trade and Investment Facilitation
Year: 2012

Written by Mekong Institute

A. Principle Conclusions

(1) Relevance: Satisfactory

  • The project was by any measure very relevant for the EWEC region and its direct beneficiaries – the provincial and local CCIs and business associations. The under-utilization of the available infrastructure and the reform measures already put in place along the route by the private sector, resulting in low level of trade and investment activities, having little impact on poverty reduction and socio-economic development in the EWEC, poses a serious need to external interventions by champions organizations like MI, as well as funding support by donor agencies.
  • TA to provincial and local CCIs and BAs would help to turn them into ‘catalyst’, or ‘agent for changes’ in the context of a private sector which is not very well-developed. MI and the project have chosen to focus whatever resources available on building the capacity of a narrow core group instead of spreading thin to cover all the vast needs and demands of the region.
  • The needs analysis done at the onset of the project was very comprehensive and the project was well-designed with choice of activities excellently made.
  • The type of activities undertaken within the framework of the Project is within the core competencies of MI: capacity development and regional networking. The impact that the Project wishes to bring about – more trade and investment in the EWEC region – is also within the priority areas of MI, which is regional cooperation and integration, socially as well as economically.

(2) Effectiveness: Satisfactory

  • The project has been quite effective in building the capacity of various individuals as well as institutions (CCIs, BAs, etc) along the EWEC in terms of trade and investment. There is also a strong feeling of goodwill towards MI throughout the region for initiating this project as well as other activities that the Institute has done so far which benefited these stakeholders.
  • All the targeted outputs were delivered as planned, all activities completed while some extra activities was also added to complement those originally designed in achieving the intended outcome of the project.
  • The executive seminar undertaken within the framework of the project has not been able to bring about any policy outcomes as intended. We should, nevertheless, appreciate that it has been successful in raising awareness and disseminating information about business opportunities and development potentials along the EWEC, as well as cultivating the necessary political will for pushing forward the sub-regional cooperation and integration agenda.
  • The SLVs were extremely appreciated for their effectiveness in developing business networking and promoting lesson-learning and replication of best practices and successful business models.
  • The training content of the project is considered very useful by all stakeholders, due to the relevance of knowledge and skills delivered, as well as the quality of trainers and the training approach adopted by MI. We, however, have doubt about the “training-of-trainers” approach of the project since we see that there is a lack of structured mechanism for sharing of knowledge and skills by the trainees at MI with their colleagues once they are back to office.
  • The EWEC Website and Database is also an unique tool developed by MI and the project. Though it remains low key at the moment, it has the potential of becoming a much stronger tool in the future, once some adjustments are made and once the promotion of the website and database itself is more strategically made. 

(3) Efficiency: Satisfactory

  • The project has a good steering and implementation structure. However, the role of the Project Steering Committee could be strengthened. Reporting should be done on the basis of the LogFrame which has been excellently drawn up during the designing phase of the project, to focus more on performance and outcome-reporting rather than activity and output-reporting as of now.
  • The absence of “micro-management” by the donor became an incentive for MI to choose the best cost solutions for project activities, which enable savings, result in surplus of funds which were subsequently used for additional activities.
  • The efficiency of delivering technical assistance by the project is mixed. The biggest problems include: (i) coordination with other projects led by ADB and UNESCAP, (ii) the selection of participants for project activities, and (iii) language barrier due to low English proficiency.
  • Project funds were efficiently allocated, used and managed. 



(4) Impact/Sustainability: Satisfactory

  • The project has been able to build the capacity of members of CCIs and BAs, as well as entrepreneurs in the region, as well as provide useful working tools for these institutions, which would be sustainable by themselves.
  • The impact of the project on trade and investment facilitation and socio-development in the EWEC region remains anecdotal and limited since it is just a pilot initiative to test the water; while needs and demands in this regard of the region is vast. Such impacts should only be expected in the longer run and requires additional resources and activities.
  • The project is not yet sustainable by itself, and the role of MI is still essential but there is much “buy-in” of the stakeholders. Therefore, any future programme and initiative could expect more contributions from them to increase local ownership as well as partnership.

B. Key Recommendations

  1. Expand and deepen the current project into a bigger programme (with at least 3-5 years’ term) which would provide hands-on and direct support to members of the private sector in the EWEC region, still using the CCIs and BAs as the bridge. This programme should be designed in consultation with other relevant actors such as the ADB, UNESCAP as early as possible.
  2. Recognizing that the private sector is not a heterogeneous group, the new programme should try to develop tailor-made support/solutions which cater to the needs of the respective groups or stakeholders, for example, the SMEs, the farmers’ groups, household businesses. 
  3. Capitalize on the deliverables, outputs produced under the current project such as the EWEC Website and Database, the SME Product Display and Information Centre, as well as other training materials.
  4. Explore new approaches in the new programme to boost trade and investment activities in the region, instead of only facilitating trade and investment. For example, MI could think about starting/administering some sort of Business Challenge Fund to support proposals which are about innovative business models which could contributing to trade and investment promotion along the EWEC, or which create employment and ease poverty.
  5. Buttress in contributions from the private sector and institutions such as big CCIs in the region to increase ownership and partnership.
  6. Selection of industries and sectors to be included in the new programme should be done on the basis of competitiveness mapping, to ensure focus. Furthermore, in such industries, the narrower focus should be on developing value chain and consortia/clusters.
  7. If MI/the new programme would like to continue support the capacity development of CCIs along the EWEC, it should focus on strategic institutional aspects and sustainability aspects of such activities, to avoid continuing to build the capacity of individuals.
  8. Build in advocacy elements/activities to address policy bottlenecks at the high level (i.e. central governments of GMS countries) in the new programme.
  9. Undertake more awareness raising and information dissemination activities regarding the legal and policy framework concerning cross-border trade and investment activities, for example the CBTA, the ASEAN Common Effective Preferential Tariff Scheme (CEPT) or the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), etc.

C. Synthesis and Evaluation Workshop

Cross-cutting recommendations made during the workshop (organised on the 17th of December, 2012 at the Mekong Institute) for the activities to be carried out in a proposed 2nd phase of the project include:

  1. Further training and capacity building activities for CCIs’ staffs as well as member enterprises related to specific skills and specific industries.
  2. Business matching events with regard to specific products and industries, which could potentially be transformed into EWEC annual trade fairs or tourism fairs.
  3. EWEC database to be further developed in the direction of self-sustainability since this is recognized as an important tool to ensure business networking within the EWEC region as well as a bridge to reach to traders and investors (companies) from outside the region.
  4. Structured learning visits for specific studies to further promote intra-regional and extra-regional networking.
  5. Advocacy and consultation with central governments of all EWEC countries to be undertaken so as to highlight the problems and seek political support for developing the region.
  6. Support (financial as well as institutional) to be provided for start-up ventures along the EWEC region such as EWEC bus lines or organic farming groups.
  7. Market research to be undertaken vis-à-vis specific sectors/industries so as to help the stakeholders identify and make the best use of business opportunities.

Enhancing Provincial and Local Chambers of Commerce Capacities in Trade and Investment Facilitation along East-West Economic Corridor

Enhancing Provincial and Local Chambers of Commerce Capacities in Trade and Investment Facilitation along East-West Economic Corridor

Category: Project Completion Reports, Trade and Investment Facilitation
Year: 2012
Link: Download

Written by Mekong Institute

The Project “Enhancing Provincial and Local Chambers of Commerce Capacities in Trade and Investment Facilitation along East-West Economic Corridor” was implemented by Mekong Institute from January 2011 to December 2012, in collaboration with ADB Thailand Residential Mission and Private Sector Development Unit of Trade and Investment Promotion Division of UNESCAP. The project was funded by the Japan Government through Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF), ASEAN Secretariat. The aim of this private sector development is to promote inter and intra trade and investment in and between 11 provinces along East-West Economic Corridor encompassing Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.


EWEC was chosen for this development intervention because it is the least developed corridor in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).It covered 11 commercial nodes along EWEC. They are Myewaddy, Maesot, Phitsanulok, KhonKaen, Kalasin, Mukdahan, Savannakhet, Dansawanh, Dong Ha (including Lao Bao Special Economic Zone) , Hue and Da Nang (including three border nodes: Mae Sot – Myewaddy, Mukdahan – Savannakhet, and Dan Sawanh – Lao Bao)


Major activities carried out in the last two years include: a) Executive Seminars/Policy Dialogues, Structured Learning Visits and networking events for Decision Makers and Exporters; b) a series of capacity building programs (modular training approach) on priority areas related to trade and investment in the sub-region for Core Group of key staff of Chambers of Commerce and Industries (CCIs) and SME associations; and c) Business information system, database and exchange.


Major outcomes of this project are:


1.      EWEC Business Network. The project is very successful in promoting business network among SMEs and members of CCI along EWEC. This is evidenced by the establishment of EWEC Business Network; regular exchange visits and joint business events among the CCIs; an annual EWEC Trade Fair which commenced in 2012 hosted by Danang CCI and, for 2013, to be hosted by KhonKaen CCI.

2.      EWEC Biz Database. This Biz Database is the outcome of a modular training program on Conducting Business Research and Market Intelligence. It was developed jointly with 11 Provincial Chambers of Commerce and Industries and contains provincial profiles and investment potentials of every province on EWEC and over 1200 company profiles. The database is being updated by the respective CCIs.

3.      Improved Websites of GMS Business Forum and CCIs. The project team provided training to and worked with the GMS Business Forum and selected Chambers of Commerce in improving their respective websites and install summary page in English.

4.      EWEC Product Displays and Information Center. Three EWEC Product Displays and Information Centers (PDIC) have been set up, one at KhonKaen CCI, one at KhonKaen Airport arrival hall and one at Savannakhet CCI. The PDIC provide opportunity for SMEs of EWEC to display their products and provide information about their services.

5.      EWEC Private Sector Development Repository System. The project team compiled all documents generated by three private sector development projects, i.e. a) ADB Thailand Resident Mission project on “Strengthening Local Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIs) along the East West Economic Corridor to Promote Trade, Investment and Value Chains”, b) UNESCAP Research and Policy Recommendations on “Business for Development: Capacity building of SMEs in the Greater Mekong Subregion for their effective penetration into regional and global markets” and this project. The archives are placed at MI GMS Resource Center and are available for public in hard copies and electronic files. It comprises research papers, manuals, training packages, reports and projects information. MI Trade and Investment Glossary (MITIF) developed under this project are also made available at this corner.


To continue to provide technical support and backstopping to CCIs and Provincial authorities on EWEC after the project end, MI has contracted one consultant – Trade and Investment Expert to assist EWEC Biz Network to: a) conduct cross-border value chain analysis and mapping of three commodities:  Glutinous rice of Nakhon Phnom; Khammoune, Arabica coffee of Lao Bao – Dansavanh; and  maize of Myewaddy – Maesot; b) organize, in collaboration with Khon Kaen Governor Office and Khon Kaen CCI “EWEC Silk Executive Seminar and Investor Forum”; and c) provide technical support and backstopping to CCIs on trade and investment opportunities.


The final evaluation results showed that the project is highly relevant, effective, efficient but too small and two short duration to create clear impact. Lessons learned from and good practices of this project are being replicated and expand to Southern Economic Corridor and North-South Economic Corridor of the Mekong Subregion. This initiative also caught the attention of development partners and as a result, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has agreed to provide multi-year funding for a regional development project on EWEC.

Does Microfinance Reduce Poverty in Lao PDR Case study of Village Development Funds (VDFs) at Sukuma District Champassak Province, Lao PDR

Does Microfinance Reduce Poverty in Lao PDR Case study of Village Development Funds (VDFs) at Sukuma District Champassak Province, Lao PDR

Category: Research Working Paper Series (MINZAs), Trade and Investment Facilitation
Year: 2012
Link: Download

Written by Mekong Institute

The purpose of this study is to present the problems of Village Development Funds (VDFs) members in terms of borrowing money, repaying loans and saving deposit. It also examined the impact of VDFs on poverty in terms of income, expenditures, and savings by adopting the methods used by Coleman (1999). The survey was conducted on June 2012, with 15 villages at Sukuma district in rural area southern of Laos. All these villages have VDFs which were in operation for various lengths of time. The villagers were allowed to decide for themselves if they wanted to be members or not. The sample was conducted in 361 households which included 113 household members and 248 households non-members. The study found that the main problems of members for saving deposit in VDFs is that they have irregular income and the accounting system of VDFs was not clear. They also found it difficult to borrow money from VDFs because first, the loan size was very small and not enough for generating income or running a business; second, they do not have collateral for loan; and third, the steps to borrow money was very difficult. The main causes of difficulty in paying back loans are first, members in household were sick and there was lack of market demand for products of the household; second, they used enterprise capital on consumption; third, the loan activity was not profitable. To analyze the impact of VDFs on household income, expenditure and saving of members, this study shows that VDFs program does not have significant impact on household income, expenditures, and savings. There were also some problems with management of VDFs. Some of the borrowers took loans for non-productive purposes. Thus, in conclusion, the Village Development Funds program might not reduce poverty in Sukuma District, Champassak Province.

MITIF Glossary

MITIF Glossary

Category: Trade and Investment Facilitation
Year: 2012
Link: Download

Written by Mekong Institute

There arent many people outside of MI who fully understand the challenges we had
to overcome in order to develop this glossary handbook. This project has taken many shapes
and forms, and has been renamed countless times. But despite all of our struggles, we all
knew it had to be done.

We knew that this book could contribute greatly and enhance the learning experience
of our participants. Knowing that we could make a difference was the core motivation to push
us forward and finally complete it.

I am telling you this, because this is no ordinary glossary. We didnt go so far just to
create an everyday book. As a matter of fact, this book you are holding is a glossary and
training manual all in one. Not only will you learn new terms from this book, but also learn
how to teach others the new terms youve learned through an already tried and tested lesson

So I urge you my dear readers to please use this book for what it was meant for: To
learn, teach others what youve learned, and expand what you have all learned together. For
this book was meant to be more than just a reference material, and with you as a user, the
potential can be limitless.

It has been a long road for all of us, and I personally still cant believe it is finally
finished. We all went so far to make this happen, but only those who go too far can truly
know how far they can go.

SME Cluster Development and Export Consortia

SME Cluster Development and Export Consortia

Category: Completion Reports, Trade and Investment Facilitation
Year: 2012

Written by Mekong Institute

The Mekong Institute (MI) conducted a two-week Regional Training Programme on SME Cluster Development and Export Consortia from 14th 25th May, 2012 at its Residential Training Center in Khon Kaen, Thailand. This training programme is part of the three-year project on Capacity Building for the Integration of CLMV Economies into ASEAN Economic Community from 2012-2014, funded by New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAID).

Twenty-nine participants from Cambodia, P.R China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam (or GMS countries) attended this regional training programme. They were senior or mid level of officials and staff from government departments from Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Trade Promotion Agencies, Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Business Association and business entrepreneurs.

The programme aimed to build capacities of business development service (BDS) providers and SME exporters in key areas in SME cluster development; export model development through export consortia; facilitating access of BDS, cluster mapping, technology adaption, innovation, and integration of SME exporters to regional and global supply chains. It particularly sought to enhance the participants capacities and provide opportunities for them to:

To increase understanding of SME and their significance in the context of AEC 2015;
To facilitate formation of SME clusters and export consortia in the GMS countries;
To promote SME cluster linkages and support their integration to regional and global value chains;
To promote SME cluster linkages to reinforce long-term business cooperation and networking between and among the GMS countries.

The training programme was designed and delivered using a modular training approach in which participants went through three progressive stages : i) Learn to Do training on concepts, techniques and tools to be employed; ii) Do to Learn the participants were required to apply what they learned in their work assignments with proper coaching from assigned advisors; and iii) Share to Learn the participants had an opportunity to present the results of their group work, learning experiences and lessons learned.

Dr. Eduardo Q. Canela, an expert in SME Cluster Development and Export Consortia Formation, delivered lectures, led plenary discussions and shared experiences to the participants. Dr. Masato Abe, an economist officer from UNESCAP in Bangkok, Thailand served as invited resource person on regional SMEs and challenges of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. Mr. Madhurjya Kumar Dutta, an in-house resource person, shared a session on managing the competitiveness a SME cluster and promoting the SME through a formation of export consortia. Dr. Nittana Southiseng also contributed coordinating the programme.

The training programme was delivered on four inter-related modules:

Module 1: Concepts and principles of SME cluster in enhancing the SME development in GMS. Types, service, size, tools and approaches for developing SME cluster were presented.

Module 2: Importance of SMEs in the context of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 was included. Participants attentions were drawn intensively on the importance of integration of AEC framework and SME development.

Module 3: Key elements for preparing SME cluster development plan was key focus of this module. This emphasized on preparing the SME cluster development plan (includes setting visions and objectives, and identifying prospective market, products and services, value chain and cluster operation plan, technology and facilities, pattern of cluster and marketing plan etc).

Module 4: Strategies and methods in managing cluster competitiveness to ensure the SME clusters survival and growth were key elements of this module. This module addressed marketing strategies in building trust among the cluster members, effective market linkages, e-marketing, branding and participation in trade fairs.

As part of the training requirements, the participants developed action plans on building capacity for SME cluster development and export consortia formation. The action plans, will be jointly implemented within the frame of six months during June November 2012.

The programme evaluation results revealed a high level of satisfaction among the participants. Participants also provided with recommendations for trainings in the future including (i) adding technical sessions on sustainable SME cluster development and export consortia formation, (ii) introducing discussants that have practical experience and initiatives in developing SME cluster, (iii) allocating adequate time for discussion during field visits as well as for developing the action plans.

SME BIZ Network and ASEAN Gateway

SME BIZ Network and ASEAN Gateway

Category: Completion Reports, Trade and Investment Facilitation
Year: 2012

Written by Mekong Institute

The Mekong Institute and the International Institute for Trade and Development (ITD) jointly conducted a two-week workshop-cum Structured Learning Visit (SLV) entitled, SME Biz Network and ASEAN Gateway.

The workshop was scheduled in two phases; 2-6 July 2012 and 9-13 July 2012. As part of the workshop, SLVs were organized to SME Clusters in the various provinces of Northeastern Thailand and Savannakhet province of Lao PDR.

On these visits, participants learned first-hand about best practices, established valuable business networks, and identified business opportunities in Khon Kaen, Mukdahan, Nakhon Ratchasima and Surin provinces in Thailand and Savannakhet province in Lao PDR.

The workshop-cum SLV was attended by 111 participants, comprising of mid-to-senior level officers from concerned government agencies and SMEs owners from the Northeastern region of Thailand. The workshop was designed to expose various stakeholders, decision makers, and local SMEs owners to trade and investment opportunities in Northeast Thailand and Lao.

Twenty-seven presenters / lecturers including ITD and MI facilitators conducted workshops consisting of discussion and experience sharing forums. Plenary and deliberation sessions were held on the current state of SMEs, business development services, and state policies and regulations relating to AEC integration preparation in 2015.

A number of participatory learning methodology methods were employed during the workshops in order to assist participants in achieving their ultimate learning goals. Participants were required to jointly develop business action plans, which upon the completion of the workshop, were formulated and shared. In total, eleven joint business action plans were formulated.

The evaluation of participants conducted upon conclusion of the workshops strongly indicated that the program was a success in terms of its design, content, and organization. Results demonstrated that participants had also absorbed the targeted skills and knowledge and revealed a high satisfaction rating. On average, participants awarded the program 4.43 on a scale of 5 (with 5 being the highest possible score). These results strongly suggests that the program, or similar, should be conducted again in the near future.



Category: Trade and Investment Facilitation, Project Completion Reports
Year: 2012

Written by Mekong Institute

The Mekong Institute has been implementing the regional project entitled “Capacity Development Programme for Integrating CLMV Economies into AEC” since February 2012. The project aims to promote the development of agricultural and SMEs sectors of the new ASEAN members, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam, collectively known as CLMV. Farmers, small-scale producers and SMEs are the ultimate targeted beneficiaries of this project. Implementation strategies employed under this project are a) moving farmers from subsistence to commercial farming by introducing GAP and Postharvest Practices and promoting crop diversification and contract farming to raise incomes and reduce risks; b) promoting non-farm employment by promoting value-adding agriculture processing activities and the development of SMEs in rural areas; and c) promoting essential trade facilitation and business development services that increase access to good practices, markets, information, finance, and reduce transaction costs.

The project employs modular training approach of which each training course comprises three progressive phases: a) Learn to do – a training course cum structured learning visit, b) Do to learn – participants are required to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills in their work with technical assistance and back-up support from MI trainers and resource persons and c) Share to learn – participants who have successfully implemented their action plans during the “Do to learn” phase will be invited to a synthesis and evaluation workshop to share their lessons learned and best practices and provide feedback to MI to improve the training program in the future.

Progress Report
In 2012, key outputs can be summarized as follows:

Component A: a) One modular training program on Good Agriculture Practices for 28 participants - 25 from CLMV and 3 from Thailand and China on cost-sharing basis; b) Youth Camp on Modern Farming for 39 agriculture students from 4 universities of CLMV; c) Regional workshop on Developing Viable Seed Industry for 35 participants from CLMV – in collaboration with ADB Institute.

Component B: a) Workshop cum Structured Learning Visit (SLV) on “Cross-border Value Chains of Cabbage from Lao PDR to Thailand” for 18 Lao participants from Champasack Province; and b) Regional Workshop cum Structured Learning Visit on Successful Contract  Farming Models and Cross-Border Trade for 33 participants from CLMV.

Component C: a) One modular training program on SME Cluster Development and Export Consortia for 24 CLMV participants and 8 Thai and Chinese participants – on a cost-sharing basis; and b) Five action researches on forming SME cluster and value chain integration in CLMV and Thailand and one policy brief.

Component D: a) Twenty three participants completed a ToT course on Trade Negotiation and FTAs; b) FTA guide for SME exporters developed.

Component E: a) Eight young researchers completed the first six-month training cycle of Young GMS Professional Program and 10 young researchers of the second batch are currently doing their learning projects at MI and expected to complete their training in April 2013; and b) Twelve masters’ degree students have successfully completed their research requirements under MINZAS and 10 research papers have been publishes as MI Research Working Papers.

Two planned activities could not be implemented in 2012 due to time constraints, i.e. one modular training cycle on Business Research and one Multi-stakeholder forum on GAP and Postharvest Practices. These two activities will be implemented in 2013.

2013 Workplan

The following activities have been planned for 2013
A. Improved Agriculture Productivity: Key milestones under this component include one modular training cycle on GAP and Postharvest Practices; four action researches on GAP & Postharvest Practices; a youth camp for forty young smart farmers on modern farming system; and an annual forum to promote regional cooperation and network on GAP and Improved Postharvest Practices.

B. Improved cross-border contract farming management policies and good contract farming practices. Key milestones for this component include a Structured Learning Visit for of Contract Farming practitioners (farmers groups, contractors and government officials) to good contract farming practices; field studies on cross-border value chains mapping and analysis on East-West and Southern Economic Corridors (EWEC and SEC); and field research/case studies on how smallholder farmers can benefit from contract farming and regional and global value chain integration.

C. Increased cross-border SME clusters and improved export network. Key milestones are one modular training program on SME cluster development and export consortia; one modular training cycle on Business Research and Market Intelligence; and a GMS Biz Network and Investor forum. 

D. Increased FTA utilization by SMEs. Key milestones are one ToT program on FTA procedures; one workshop on trade policy development and trade negotiation; and Web portal development to facilitate information sharing and community of practices among public and non-state stakeholders on FTAs and related issues.

E. Enhanced GMS-focused research capacity of young GMS professionals. This year, 11 young GMS professionals will be participating in a six-month training and field research cycle. Twelve master degree students will also be recruited, under MI-New Zealand Ambassador Scholarship Scheme, to participate in a one-year research development cycle which comprises of training in research methodology, conducting field research as part of their theses requirements and participating in a research round table meeting.

The 2nd Mekong Forum will be organized on July 11-12 2013 in collaboration with International Institute for Trade and Development, back-to-back with MI Council Meeting. The objective of this forum is to provide a neutral arena for development practitioners and decision makers from public, private and civil society to have open dialogue and exchange ideas on how to promote equitable and inclusive growth in the GMS. The theme of this Mekong Forum is “Towards more inclusive and equitable growth, GMS”. The results of several researches under this NZAP project will be presented and deliberated at this forum.

Challenges faced during 2012 implementation included a) Limited English proficiency among provincial government officials, SME and farmers leaders, b) Lack of supportive environment for participants to implement their action plan upon return to their original agencies, and c) Limited absorptive capacity of local partners acquiring and practicing participatory-centered training method and in localizing training packages.

To overcome the challenges, MI conducted two baseline surveys and capacity building needs assessments in the last quarter of 2012 to identify local partners who are committed to promoting agriculture value chain integration and SMEs cluster and biz network in CLMV, assess their capacity and develop intervention plan and strategies to build their capacity. MOUs have been signed with committed local partners to localize training packages and replicate MI core learning courses at provincial and border level. It is MI affirmative action to work with and through these local partners in the future to reach the critical masses of capacity building for regional development and cooperation.