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Amid Digital Change, What Do Small Businesses Need?

A multisector list of recommendations

Short answer: Infrastructure, capacity, funding and equality. These are the four main demands to government officials from micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in APEC economies, according to the participants of the APEC Cross-border E-Commerce Training (APEC CBET) workshop held in September 2021, under a #MakeYourVoiceHeard campaign for small businesses.

The event, endorsed by the Committee on Trade and Investment with the support of ecommerce firm DHgate, to explore themes laid out in the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, notes the current heightened significance of the digital economy and the potential opportunities for MSMEs—especially women-owned businesses—even amid the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants from the public and private sectors summarized four critical recommendations for preparing MSMEs to embrace digital tools:

  1. Collaboration between the public and private sectors.
  2. Collaboration between traditional and new industries
  3. Creating a cybersecurity strategy
  4. Promote innovative technology applications in the supply chain

Government officials, senior experts and representatives from the public and private sectors contributed to this discussion. Collectively they offered a rich tapestry of recommendations and reaffirmations. We’ve listed some of them below according to the three sectors: public, private and academia.*

Private Business

Digital efficiency, digital inclusion, digital security, and inclusive digital finance.

  • Diane Wang, a member of the APEC Business Advisory Council, Founder, Chairperson, and CEO of DHgate:

Strong collaboration between the public and private sectors, including governments and business leaders, and other multilateral organizations is important, to support MSMEs in digital transformation.

  • Nancy Hong, Founder of NEOpine Trading Company in China:

“Government can provide us with capability building in digital solutions, and increase fundings or loans, and connect us with overseas business opportunities.”

  • Sword Zhu, CEO of Yizheng Haifeng Industry and Trade Co., Ltd. in China:

Capacity building and funding support are crucial for MSMEs at the current stage.

  • José Pablo Berardi, Commercial Director of Chilexpress in Chile

Many MSMEs are searching for solutions to access to market, requiring modernizing technology systems and expanding interoperability capacity.

  • Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, CEO and Founder of in Thailand:

“Government shall facilitate and make the connection with other economies, and private sectors shall work together in payments, logistics and others. Thus, governments can push MSMEs going cross-border better and better.”

  • Anissa Swastika, CEO of PT. Bertalenta Berinovasi in Indonesia:

Governments should promote more opportunities for women to navigate the crisis.

  • Christine Wong, Vice President of International Affairs and Strategic Department at JD International and Andy Li, Senior Vice President at LazGlobal:

E-commerce has played a prominent role in boosting global trade amid the crisis. Smart technologies such as smart production prediction, smart logistics and innovative finance solutions have further accelerated the new form of international trade.

  • Winnie Wang, Executive President, Shenzhen Cross-Border E-Commerce Association:

Cross-border e-commerce requires interconnected cooperation. Governments should reach agreements on logistics, customs import and export, Intellectual property rights, talent standards, mutual recognition.

  • Oliver Wan, Head of DHLink:

There should be regular meetings among governments in APEC economies to align policies and supervision of the logistics industry, give the international logistics industry more flexibility and development space in the region and make prices more affordable.

  • Dr. Richard Zhao, COO of International Business at NSFOCUS:

Six pillars to build a secured network: resilience and “fail-safe,” cloud security, compliance, anti-DDoS, endpoint security, and supply chain risk management.

  • Peter Liddell, Global Leader Operations Centre of Excellence (Supply Chain, Procurement) at KPMG:

Several emerging digital technologies, including advanced analytics, robotic automation, and augmented reality, can enhance supply chain performance from plan, source, make, deliver, to return. It can help future proof supply chain and reduce complexity and uncertainty across the network.

  • Dr. Stephen Lam, COO at GS1 Hong Kong:

“With [Global Data Standards], users can gain a shared view of goods as they move through the supply chain, enhancing supply chain visibility. It serves as the foundation for seamless cross-border information flow and facilitates smooth cross-border trade.”

The Academe

  • Professor Sheng Bin, Dean of School of Economics at Nankai University and Director of China APEC Academy:

Governments should stimulate the unique role of digital trade and e-commerce to address the trade shock of COVID-19, for example, adopting more digital products, digital transmission and digital platforms.

  • Dr. Huimin Wang, Deputy Director, Credit Institute, Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation:

New industries should further strengthen integration and innovation with traditional industries, enhancing the digitalization level of enterprises and building a flexible supply chain. For example, cross-border e-commerce platforms and foreign trade comprehensive service companies should collaborate in R&D, design, trading, logistics, warehousing, finance, manufacturing, and other resources. This collaboration can provide flexible and integrated smart solutions for MSMEs, to meet customer expectations across all channels.

  • Daniel Pellathy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Operations & Supply Chain Management, Grand Valley State University, Michigan, United States

Mapping end-to-end supply chain cyber security is important. They need to understand the nature, type, and sources of risks that are specific to the organization and industry and integrate with key supply chain partners on both a strategic and operational level.

The Public Sector

  • Yang Song, Director, Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs, Ministry of Commerce of China, and China's Representative to APEC Committee on Trade and Investment:

APEC needs to create a sound policy environment for trade and investment.

  • Benlin Yu, Director General of Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs of Ministry of Commerce of China

“China has long been committed to fostering a favorable policy environment for MSMEs to embrace the digital economy, to realize digital transformation, to upgrade the traditional foreign trade and to boost bilateral and multilateral cross-border e-commerce and digital trade cooperation.”

  • Dr. Witada Anukoonwattaka, Economic Affairs Officer, Trade Policy and Analysis Section, Trade and Investment Division, UNESCAP, suggested four policy implications: finance.

* These are paraphrased unless enclosed in quotation marks

© Scoop Media

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