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Bangkok, Thailand, November 13, 2017 – Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the Mekong countries and a host of foreign investors from Asia and beyond gather today at the Pullman Bangkok Grand Sukhumvit for the 2017 Investor Forum and Business Matching.

Organized by Mekong Institute (MI) in collaboration with Otagai Forum Association and supported by the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF), the Forum is the first of its kind to bring together SME clusters from 19 provinces in Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand, as well as 13 other SMEs from these countries including Lao PDR, and connect them with a broad network of foreign investors from countries like Japan, Hong Kong, and Poland.  

The Forum is designed as a venue for knowledge exchange and enabling stronger linkages of SMEs and thereby promote their expansion to the regional and global markets.

Speaking during the opening, Dr. Watcharas Leelawath, MI Executive Director, underscored MI’s role as a regional hub that works to advance inclusive growth by developing capacities of key sectors and stakeholders. “Mekong Institute’s work is underpinned by our vision of a strong, competitive and capable human resources and where key economic and social sectors have the capacities needed to speed up sustainable development in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.”

“Today’s forum is part of our commitment to advance the development of small and medium enterprises in the GMS. Our SMEs in the region offer huge potentials for growth, and one of the ways to realize this is to provide them the venue where they can learn, exchange and share information, foster partnerships and open them up to markets to accelerate their integration into the global value chain. This is what this Forum is about – a platform for knowledge sharing and network-building,”he noted.  

Mekong countries in the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC) namely, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam stand to gain from the ASEAN Economic Community as it opens the door to broader and more developed markets like Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. The interconnectivity of the Mekong Sub-region countries via its economic corridors, one of which is the SEC, also translates to more avenues for boosting capacity and competitiveness.

Further elaborating on how the Forum can facilitate SMEs’ entry into broader markets, Mr. Madhurjya Kumar Dutta, Director of MI’s Trade and Investment Facilitation Department said, “The forum today provides an opportunity for the SME product clusters from 19 provinces along the Southern Economic Corridor to access market opportunities in the region and beyond.”

“To enable a larger network of businesses, the project created a web based platform to showcase opportunities in the Southern Economic Corridor to promote business-to-business development. This platform is also being used to conduct online business matching to facilitate the process of onsite business matching among prospective business partners. Business owners from Japan, Poland, Hong Kong and from other ASEAN countries participating in the event will have the opportunity to share and expand their business prospects and also gain useful information about investment through interaction with the key experts from the region,” Mr. Dutta added.  

The one-day Forum opens with a discussion session on the investment opportunities in the ASEAN with a particular focus in CMTV. Discussants from key agencies such as the Ministry of Industry, as well as representatives from trade organizations in Asia, weigh in on the emerging business opportunities, bottlenecks and mechanisms to boost investments in the SEC and the Mekong countries in general.

Japan is one country that sees much potential in the Mekong countries as a stable and profitable business partner. Sharing perspectives from Japan, Mr. Daisuke Hiratsuka, President, Bangkok Research Centre, Institute of Developing Economies-Japan External Trade Organization (IDE-JETRO), noted the increasing participation of countries like Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam in supply chains. With labor costs rising in Thailand, Japanese investors and firms are turning to these countries where prices more affordable. The influx, especially of low-value industries, could mean a big boost for local enterprises.

The one-on-one business matching follows in the afternoon. The SMEs and investors have been matched prior the Forum through the SEC business database (www.sec4business.com) where the SMEs’ business profiles and technological requests were used to find the corresponding investor matches.

Exhibit booths are also set up to showcase the products of the participating SME groups. Among the exhibitors are the silk production cluster from Banteay Meanchey (Cambodia), mackerel fish cluster from Dawei (Myanmar), organic rice cluster from Prachinburi (Thailand) and pangasius cluster from Can Tho (Vietnam).

The 2017 Investor Forum and Business Matching is part of MI’s capacity development project on Enhancing Competitiveness of SMEs in the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC) of ASEAN Mekong Subregion (AMS), an initiative supported by the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund.