ASEAN has grown from strength to strength since the Bangkok Declaration was signed in 1967. Progress and achievements in the ASEAN Economic Community pillar have been strong and encouraging. The widely quoted figures that position ASEAN collectively as the sixth largest economy in the world, the world’s fourth largest powerhouse in trade and a preferred investment destination – are vivid illustrations of the success of ASEAN economic integration. These achievements must be extended to and enjoyed by the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) of the region.

Despite regional integration and dominance in numbers, MSMEs tend to be less active in establishing a presence in other ASEAN Member States in comparison to larger companies. The uncertainties, risks associated with direct investment, lack of adequate overseas market information, difficulties in access to finance and lack of an internationalization agenda are some of the reasons holding back MSMEs’ regional expansion. In response to this, the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development (2016-2025) recognizes the importance of supporting MSMEs’ internationalization through the establishment of a larger pool of innovative, resilient and competitive MSMEs that are ready for the global market.

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