Several business players in Indonesia engaged in operating medium and small enterprises recently met their contemporaries from Singapore and Malaysia in Riau Islands. This meeting took place during the weekend with a view to developing partnerships before the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community. Syamsul Bahrum, head of economic development, Riau Island, stated that the gathering was basically aimed at offering greater opportunities for players in the SME sector to understand and get to know one another better and then eventually enter into potential business partnerships. This meeting was the very starting point for future business cooperation amidst players belonging to three different countries.
The South East Asian economies anticipate the setting up of AEC by the end of 2015. Under the principle of planned economic integration, the South East Asian countries have plans of liberalizing almost 12 service segments which include travel services, social services, financial services, healthcare services, tourism, and business services. However, there are numerous players in the SME segment that do not have a clear understanding of how trade will take place and also the latent potential for increasing competition once the AEC comes into being and starts functioning fully.
A recently conducted survey in Thailand pointed to the fact that almost 88% of the small and medium enterprises located in Thailand had clearer understanding of AEC as against 79% about 5 years back. However, their understanding of the AEC was only limited to the very basic and fundamental information. Furthermore, approximately 2.23 million out of 2.42 million SMEs in Thailand did not exhibit a crisp understand of the challenges, market demands, advantages, and the laws in each of the economies of the ASEAN region.