On March 19-20 the SCSI Programme brought together its partners in Bangkok to discuss approaches on private sector enhancement in regional economic integration processes. The emphasis was on strengthening small and medium enterprises (SMEs) inclusion from Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia and Vietnam in regional and global agricultural value chains.

The key-note speech by Prof. Shandre Mugan Thangavelu, Regional Director at the Centre for International Economic Studies, University of Adelaide, highlighted the risk of SMEs being left behind. The task for the development community and national administrations would be to support the “missing link” to regional and global value chains. Here medium sized enterprises can play a crucial role linking small businesses to large companies.

Presentations and discussions showed that regional cooperation mechanisms like the Greater Tumen Initiative (GTI) can be vehicles to support private sector inclusion, if members agree on common goals and show enough dedication. It was also emphasised that strong business networks are necessary to work as multipliers for their members as well as engaging in exchange with policy makers on needs and inquiries for national or regional development strategies. Nevertheless, it became also clear that regional free trade agreements, for examples, are tools to set policy frames and benefit large companies but are not practical business documents that would include SMEs.

The expert inputs and discussions with 30 participants from respective ministries, government agencies, regional initiatives, chambers, as well as development projects will be used for an in-depth report with recommendations for future activities. It will be shared with participants and published on the programme website