Trade and Investment Facilitation

The Economic Research Institute for Trade (ERIT), the Small and Medium Enterprise Promotion Office (SMEPO) and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with the Thailand-based Mekong Institute (MI) under funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAID) conducted the National Workshop on SME Cluster Development and Export Consortia on 15-16 August in Vientiane. 

Under the fund supported by the NZAID Programme, the Mekong Institute implements the three-year project on a Capacity Building Programme for Integrating CLMV Economies into AEC 2015 in four countries Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) as stated by Dr Nittana Southiseng, SME Development Specialist at the Trade and Investment Facilitation Programme, Mekong Institute. 

According to the press release from the Ministry of Industry and commerce, the two-day national workshop is part of the programmed activity funded by NZAID, aiming to build capacity in the Lao Silk SMEs and officials of the related governmental agencies, in forming SME clusters in Laos and promoting them to regional and global outlets through export consortia, and was successfully completed on 16 August 2012. 

17 participants including SME entrepreneurs of the Lao silk business sector and senior government officials from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, have been awarded certificates by Mr Suntisouk Vilaycheun, Director General of ERIT. Mr Suntisouk closed the workshop with an emphasis on the fact that the SME cluster was an important marketing tool that the government of Laos had tried its best to push forward in promoting SMEs in Laos. The workshop increased awareness in both private and government sectors on the important roles of SME clusters and the participants were also actively seeking support to form silk SME clusters. 

A SME cluster is a network relationship, sharing a localised network and supporting linkages through the exchange of goods, services and knowledge. After forming as an SME cluster, they should move forward to form an Export Consortium. Export consortia are voluntary groupings of enterprises with the objective of improving their export readiness and increasing export volumes, stated Dr Nittana. These were very critical tools to help integrate the Lao SMEs into regional value chains, and enable them to remain competitive and be ready for the integration into an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. 

The workshop was successfully concluded with commitments from two groups of participants to jointly form two export consortia of Lao silk businesses within the same value chain with partial technical assistance from ERIT, SMEPO, LNCCI and MI. 

After forming a consortium, they will be invited to participate in the investor forum in Bangkok which will be held by the Mekong Institute in 2013. They will be able extend their networks and business opportunities with other partners in the region and the global market. 

Source: Vientiane Times

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