Funded by New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP), Trade and Investment Facilitation Department of Mekong Institute (MI) organized a Synthesis and Evaluation (S&E) Workshop on Enhancing the Utilization of Free Trade Area (FTA) by SMEs and Trade Negotiation and Trade Policy Development on December 16, 2013 in Vientiane, Lao PDR. The participants in this workshop were a group of nineteen MI alumni from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) who attended two previous training programs on FTA utilization and Trade Negotiation conducted on June 17-21, 2013 and July 29- August 2, 2013, respectively at MI Residential Training Center in Khon Kaen, Thailand. They implemented country-wise joint action plans during July-September and August-November 2013 periods.
As the final part of the MI modular training, the S&E workshop provided a platform for reflecting on the localized training package. This was achieved through the National Workshops on enhancing the utilization of FTA by SMEs in CLMV, as the participants exchanged experiences and shared learned lesson. It also provided some knowledge on ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and trade negotiation and Trade Policy Development in these four Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries.
By targeting the provided insights mentioned above, the workshop’s objective was to:
Recall the knowledge gained from the training program on enhancing the utilization of FTA by SMEs, trade negotiation, trade policy development and assessed the application of the knowledge and skills;Share experiences from the implementation of action plans and obtain feedback from co- participants;Provide an opportunity for implementing trainees to learn, share best practices and utilize results of their learning process;Evaluate the modular training approach in order to provide recommendations for its improvement in terms of contents, structure and duration.
The presentation and knowledge sharing session were arranged in the forms of information market displays, including displays of case studies, best practices, challenging issues, photos, videos, posters and power point presentation.
At the end of the workshop, the participants discussed in groups on challenges, strategies to enhance the FTA utilization by SMEs, and development of trade negotiation skills in CLMV countries. They reflected on the challenges facing them in utilizing FTA, accessing to finance and market, and adopting technology, innovation and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).The results led to discussion on development of strategies to overcome its challenges regarding establishment of the ASEAN SME development fund, credit guarantee scheme, ASEAN SME business portal and FTA database development.