(12 February 2015. Tagaytay City, Philippines) The Philippines led this year’s East Asia Business Council (EABC), a key force in strengthening cooperation among private sectors in ASEAN.
The EABC is a private advisory group comprised of three business leaders from each ASEAN member countries plus Japan, China and South Korea, appointed by their respective governments.
During the 30th meeting of the EABC council held in Tagaytay’s Taal Vista Hotel, Mr. Kim Moo-han of South Korea handed over the Chairmanship to the Philippines. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan is the new chair of the EABC.
Other members of the Philippine EABC are Ms. Teresita Sy-Coson, Vice Chairperson of SM Investments Corporation (SM) and Jay Yuvallos, President of Interior Basics Export Corp.
In his welcome remarks read by Mr. Yuvallos, Mr. Pangilinan stressed three points: Engaging; Enabling; and Sustaining small and medium-scale enterprises (SME’s). For his part, Mr. Yuvallos, who is a member of the EABC further emphasized that the theme for EABC 2015 “Enabling SMEs for Sustainable Regional Growth and Global Competitiveness.”
In a previous forum, Ms. Sy-Coson also stressed the importance of SMEs saying earlier that Filipino SMEs have had geographical and trade constraints which could be unlocked with ASEAN integration.
Citing the need for equitable economic development, Mr. Pangilinan stressed that economic maturity in the region is in various stages and that the gaps are wide. For example, the per capita income of the wealthiest ASEAN country is 60 times that of the poorest. And this wealthiest country is 15 times that of the average ASEAN per capita income. For that matter, he would like efforts to focus towards engaging, enabling and sustaining SMEs. In the ASEAN, SMEs are considered as the backbone of economic development. They comprise an average 96% of all enterprises, and account for anywhere from 50% to 85% of domestic employment. SMEs contribute between 30% and 53% to the gross domestic product (GDP) of their respective countries, and between 19% and 31% to their export.
Mr. Pangilinan said. “Many of the free trade agreements (FTAs) are intimidating for many SMEs due to the cumbersome and costly processes and many of them have voiced their opposition to these FTAs in various platforms.”
Speaking about the ASEAN market in general, Mr. Pangilinan said, “With 2015 being particularly important to the ASEAN member countries, there is a strong effort by the group to achieve regional economic integration or the creation of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The creation of the AEC is intended to lead to the establishment of a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development, and finally, a region fully integrated into the global economy.” The creation of an AEC is also expected to benefit Dialogue Partners of the EABC, namely the People’s Republic of China, South Korea and Japan, as they are also ASEAN’s biggest trade and investment partners.
Put together, the ASEAN macroeconomic numbers are compelling: 10 member nations with 620 million people, creating the third largest market in the world; a total GDP of 2.3 million US dollars – the eighth largest in the world; and total trade of about a similar amount. While the ASEAN presents some important similarities in natural resources such as minerals and agriculture, there are significant differences in the economic structures, financial systems and legal and regulatory environments.
One of the key regional initiatives expected to facilitate growth in the region is the creation of the East Asia Business Exchange or EABEX which was launched in 2013 and is one of the many activities lined up to support the enabling of SMEs. EABEX has been envisioned to provide a platform that will facilitate closer collaboration among the 13 EABC (ASEAN plus 3) nations. It aims to enable their businesses, especially the SMEs, interact with each other and serve as a collective trading community in promoting and selling their products to global buyers.
Another initiative is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or R-CEP, which the EABC plans to further enhance by organizing an R-CEP for SMEs. This year, the EABC hopes to strengthen the recommendations and present it to the R-CEP Ministers for their consideration.
The road ahead for the EABC in 2015 will consist of four council Meetings and Consultations with the ASEAN Plus Three with Senior Economic Officials, Economic Ministers and Leaders lined up.
A common thread shared by all nations engaged in the EABC dialogue is to achieve a common vision of sustainable and equitable regional growth and development for all. This was reiterated by Ms. Sy-Coson who called for a more proactive stance to fast-track and accelerate projects and events; highlight the work of EABC and spearhead dialogues with relevant policy makers, economic and trade ministers and heads of state to make a difference in the trade, investment and economic realities in today’s competitive marketplace.
About the EABC
The EABC was inaugurated in April 2004 in Kuala Lumpur and was established as a result of an implementation strategy proposed by the East Asia Study Group and endorsed by ASEAN+3 Leaders on October 7, 2003. The EABC comprises three business leaders from each ASEAN member countries, Japan, China and Republic of Korea, appointed by the respective Economic Ministers.
The objectives of the Business Council are as follows:
- To provide private sector perspective and feedback to deepen economic cooperation and to promote the region’s economic growth; and
- To strengthen cooperation among the private sectors in ASEAN, China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, as well as promote intra-regional trade and investment.
For further information, please contact:
Mr. Gil L. Gonzales
VP for Corporate Governance and Risk Management
SM Investments Corporation
Tel No.: (632) 857-0100
Ms. Therese Necio-Ortega
VP for Corporate Communications
SM Investments Corporation
Tel. No: (632) 857-0224