Singapore, 15 June 2011

Mr. Png Cheong Boon, Chief Executive of Spring Singapore,

Dato Hafsah Hashim, Chief Executive Officer of SME Corp Malaysia,

Distinguished Members of the ASEAN SME Advisory Board,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning

1. I am delighted to be present today for the 1st ASEAN SME Advisory Board Meeting. Enhancing SME development and competitiveness remains a critical issue of attention and concern of government and policy makers, regionally and worldwide. ASEAN Leaders have long acknowledged the important role of SMEs and have placed great importance in fostering SME development and capacity building in the region. SME development is a key element of the 3rd pillar of the AEC and is now the emphasis of the AEC. The recent ASEAN Summit and the ASEAN Economic Council Meeting in Jakarta has single them out as an area for increased attention under AEC.

2. At the 17th ASEAN Summit in Ha Noi, Viet Nam, ASEAN Leaders urged the relevant bodies to double their efforts to pursue a strong, dynamic and efficient SME sector. This would help to ensure a sustainable, inclusive and broad-based economic and social development in ASEAN. The Leaders further encouraged ASEAN’s dialogue and development partners to continue their supports and assistance in the promotion of SME development in the region.

3. The ASEAN Leaders also endorsed the Strategic Plan of Action for ASEAN SME Development 2010-2015. This policy initiative covers 5 important areas of regional cooperation – namely, (i) SMEs’ access to finance; (ii) internationalization of SMEs; (iii) establishing SME Service Centres; (iv) improving marketing and ICT skills of SMEs; and (v) strengthening SME human resource development and capacity building.

4. The Action Plan also seeks to ensure that by 2015, ASEAN SMEs shall be world-class enterprises which are capable of integration into the regional and global supply chains, are able to take advantage of the benefits of ASEAN economic community building, and are operating in a policy environment that is conducive to SME development, exports and innovation.

AEC’s Third Pillar Focus

5. The Leaders have placed more attention to the 3rd pillar on Equitable Economic Development of the AEC Blueprint. This pillar basically focuses on SME development and the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI). At the 17th AEM Retreat in February at Vientiane, Lao PDR, the Ministers agreed to develop a Framework or Guiding Principles for Equitable Economic Development.

6. This was reiterated at the recent 18th ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Leaders tasked the Ministers to develop a Framework or Guiding Principles that builds upon the existing programme, with stronger commitments, high-impact targets and quick outcomes that go beyond 2015. The Leaders further encouraged improved competitiveness through better access to technology, market and financing.

7. Subsequently, the Senior Economic Officials (SEOM) have requested the ASEAN SME Working Group and the IAI Task Force to jointly undertake the task of developing the Framework or Guiding Principles on Equitable Economic Development. Deliberations on this important initiative took place yesterday at the 28th SMEWG Meeting and the draft Framework or Guiding Principles will be further deliberated later today.

8. To conclude, clearly much remains to be done to bring actual performance of our SMEs closer to their rich potential. I look forward to the path-breaking and fruitful contributions to SME development and networking from the collective and proven wisdom of all the distinguished Members of the ASEAN SME Advisory Board.

Thank you.