The recent workshop for small and medium enterprises in Kuala Lumpur was the first of several that will be held this year by the US-ASEAN Business Alliance. Image: USAID/ACTI.

US Firms Help ASEAN SMEs to Improve Competitiveness and Bolster Ties


On June 2, the US-ASEAN Business Alliance—a joint effort of the US-ASEAN Business Council and the US Agency for International Development—sponsored a one-day business workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as part of a larger goal to improve the competitiveness of ASEAN’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Leaders from American firms such as PayPal, UPS, and Google led the workshop which attracted representatives from 150 ASEAN SMEs. The firms focused their training session on e-commerce, international delivery services, electronic payment methods, and global online marketing.

Although SMEs in ASEAN have been key in promoting regional economic growth, e-commerce is still a new tool that many have yet to exploit. As US Ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Yun stated during the workshop’s opening statements, “The United States supports the development of small businesses in ASEAN given their importance to foster economic growth in the region […] It is therefore important that these businesses take advantage of learning new technologies from multi-national companies, giving them the competitive edge and opportunities to enter new markets, regionally and globally.” These exchanges between ASEAN entrepreneurs and US business representatives are vital for bolstering ties and promoting further economic cooperation in the future. After the workshop in Kuala Lumpur, the Business Alliance plans to hold additional training sessions in Singapore, Jakarta, and other ASEAN cities throughout 2014.

The United States has long played an important role in promoting economic growth in ASEAN. In 2012, the US exported close to $100 billion to ASEAN, the third highest in Asia. In the same year, US direct investment in ASEAN was the highest out of all Asian markets, and from 2001 to 2012, ASEAN’s investment in the US grew by 1,440%, faster than investment coming from any other region in the world. Through initiatives such as competitiveness and e-commerce workshops, US and ASEAN firms will be able to improve their business relationship and foster increased economic growth.

Andy Nguyen is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a graduate student at Georgetown University.