(File Photo)

Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Southeast Asia can use a business matching platform called the ASEAC Access MATCH to assist them to find new clients, suppliers, and events where they can show off their products and technologies for free.

In a press statement Sunday, Reinhold Elges, country director of GIZ (Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) Thailand, said the success of MSMEs is vital to economic growth in the region.

This is the reason why the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Coordinating Committee on MSMEs has officially launched the ASEAN Access MATCH, a virtual matchmaking platform that allows businesses in the region and beyond to participate in live market information events, and book cross-border matchmaking meetings, according to a news release on Sunday.

“However, when it comes to international trade, one key issue that businesses, especially MSMEs, the face is the need to find new and relevant business contacts. This is where the public and private business support community can come in and make a difference,” he said during the January 25 launch of the platform.

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The Deutsche GIZ implements projects and programs on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and supports the development of the ASEAN Access.

In the ASEAN Access MATCH, Elges said public and private event organizers can run an unlimited number of matchmaking events of their choice for an unlimited period of time.

“We have seen that we can all be productive and achieve a lot by connecting virtually online so reducing the time and also the cost to meet a potential client or new supplier. MATCH makes business matchmaking attainable for everyone,” he said.

Apart from showcasing products and technologies during events, Elges added registered members of ASEAN Access can promote these for free on the platform.

Associate Professor Dr. Veerapong Malai, director-general of the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion in Thailand, said the platform features country information and key sectors, thus users can utilize business insights in identifying opportunities and trends.

ASEAN Coordinating Committee on MSMEs chair, Dato Suriani Binti Dato Ahmad, said that beyond the regulatory barriers to trading goods and services, the additional challenges faced by MSMEs include having limited access to information and distribution channels.

“Needless to say, having access to distribution networks is a crucial component for businesses particularly in diversifying (their) customer base domestically or internationally,” he said.

Ahmad said the Committee has been forging partnerships with economic players among ASEAN member states, including some agencies and enablers, chamber of commerce, and industry associations that aim to establish regional partnerships with international organizations.

“These network partners will greatly contribute to accelerating the growth of international trade in the region by supporting MSMEs and other businesses through ASEAN Access and ASEAN Access MATCH,” he added.

Satvinder Singh, deputy secretary-general for Asean Economic Community, said businesses in the region have resumed as the vaccination rates in the ASEAN cities have reached 70 percent.

Singh cited the Asian Development Bank forecast that Southeast Asian economies will grow by 5.1 percent in 2022 from the 3 percent it projected last year.

He also highlighted the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which came into force in the first week of January this year.

Singh said RCEP, the largest free trade agreement in the world connecting Asean and major economies, is expected to stimulate the expansion of regional trade and investments, and further strengthen the resilience of the supply chains among the signatory states.

“Thus we all believe that the launching of the ASEAN Access MATCH could not have been more timely than now,” he added. “Today, our businesses need to look not just only within their own economies. They need to look out, they need to globalize, they need to internationalize.”

Singh thus urged ASEAN MSMEs to explore the platform as one of their “must go” tools for their internationalization activities when they look for new markets around the world.

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