The 2nd Digital Champions Workshop August 21 2017 - singapore

Following the success of the first Digital Champions Workshop on May 15 2017, the Asian Trade Centre Foundation (ATCF) and the Asia Pacific MSME Trade Coalition (AMTC) jointly organized the second Digital Champions Workshop on August 21 2017. This series of workshops aim to foster better understanding between Micro, Small, and Medium-sized enterprises (MSME) and government officials in the digital age.

19 participants came from across the Asia Pacific to share their thoughts, experience and concerns in various industries such as education, food products, IT, fashion, machinery trading, or and social enterprises. They flew in from Australia, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Agenda

During the morning sessions, experts on relevant areas came together to share their knowledge and experience in cross-border trade and in working with government officials. The three experts were Dr. Deborah Elms of the Asian Trade Centre Foundation, Mr. Jeff Paine of eBay and Mr. Steven Okun from the American Chamber of Commerce. One participant from the 1st workshop, Mr. Edmond Looi from the Enlighted, also joined the morning sessions to share his thoughts and experience with the first workshop. These discussions aimed to equip MSME owners and representatives with the tools to better communicate their challenges to government officials.

From top to bottom and left to right: Presentations by Edmond Looi, Steve Okun, and Jeff Paine

During the afternoon sessions, the participants paid a visit to Google's Singapore headquarters to have lunch and listen to presentations on how MSME can better communicate with the governments. After the visit, participants came back to the training room at Rutgers to attend a roundtable discussion with the government officials from Philippines Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Vietnam Embassy in Singapore and the US Embassy in Singapore.

Left to right, top to bottom: 1. Presentation at Google office; 2&3. Roundtable discussion with government officials; 4. Discussion on AMTC future activities
Pacita Juan (EchoStore), Johan Tandanu (3DUPlay) and Agnes Legaspi (DTI Philippines) all agreed that smaller companies need to form a network to have a bigger and more powerful voice to communicate more with the governments.

The Asia Pacific MSME Trade Coalition (AMTC) was formally and officially introduced to all workshop participants in the afternoon. A more in-depth discussion on what the AMTC should do to support MSME in the Asia Pacific took place towards the end of the afternoon session.

The Asia Pacific MSME Trade Coalition (AMTC) was introduced in the afternoon sessions. The AMTC aims to help smaller companies to leverage their strength in numbers to capitalize on existing trade opportunities. The objectives of the AMTC include: to help our members grow their business, to connect our members with the tools they need to compete with larger players, and to level the playing field by working with governments across the region. To register to be a member of the AMTC, please visit http://tradecoalition.org/

The workshop ended with a cosy cocktail session and networking dinner. Other companies based in Singapore and government officials from New Zealand embassy also joined us for the night. Meaningful discussions, valuable sharing of experience, and direct feedback were exchanged among all the guests.

Cocktail session and networking dinner.

Key Challenges Faced by MSME

  • Internet Speed: One of the common concerns highlighted by participants was the slow internet speeds in their countries. This affected their business operations as slow internet speeds diminished browsing experience and reduced consumer trust while buying products online. This was a concern highlighted by companies such as Udyan Tea and Exberts.
  • Availability of Information/Repository of Knowledge: Second, some participants emphasised the need for a repository of knowledge on the various, overlapping trade agreements in the region. There was need for small companies to have easy access to information relating to certificates of origin, rules of origin etc.
  • Tax Policy: Tax is one of the top concerns of smaller companies when deciding to grow their business. While tax policies in some countries are not MSME-friendly, tax policies in other countries are difficult to follow, understand and comply.
  • Standards & Testing: Inconsistent and non-harmonized standards and testing requirements across Asia Pacific countries have caused a lot of troubles for companies exporting to different markets. The process is sometimes overlapping, inefficient, costly and time-consuming.
  • Customs and Compliance during Imports and Exports: Some companies, especially East Bali Cashews said that they were blighted by import delays (described it as a “nightmare”) and tariffs that prevented them from obtaining small machinery that would cut costs of production. This was due to protectionist measures by the Indonesian government and lack of transparency by customs officials.

Important Lessons for Workshop Participants

'How to voice and "package" our problem better to government officials' - Johan from 3DUPlay
'Regular info sharing with policy makers is key to trust building' - Kok Chin from Neuis
'Knowing that TPP11 will be beneficial for businesses in TPP countries' - Thien Kim from Topica Edtech Group
'Speak different language with different audience. There are different pitch catered to different groups.' - Simon from Xberts
'It’s beneficial to push the rephrased agenda through other channels ( media ) beforehand.' - Markus from PitchXO

Workshop Participants

  1. ECHOstore - Philippines
  2. Udyan Tea - India
  3. Velox - Singapore
  4. Xberts - China
  5. AcuiZen - Singapore
  6. Organika - Australia
  7. Mid-East Sweets - Philippines
  8. SentosaSilk - Cambodia
  9. Neuis Pte Ltd - Singapore
  10. East Bali Cashews - Indonesia
  11. Bookdoc - Malaysia
  12. Datamart - Vietnam
  13. Topica Edtech Group - Vietnam
  14. Taiwaree - Thailand
  15. PitchXO - Thailand
  16. PT. Buana Mas Sejati (3DUPlay) - Philippines
  17. Spica Co. Ltd - Thailand

Jointly Organized by The Asian Trade Centre Foundation (ATCF) and the Asia Pacific MSME Trade Coalition (AMTC).

For more information about the ATCF and our first Digital Champions Workshop, please visit http://www.atc-foundation.org/

For more information about the AMTC and to register to become a member of AMTC, please visit http://tradecoalition.org/

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