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Finding the perfect match

Danial Norjidi

A business matching platform called ASEAN Access MATCH was launched on January 25 by ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME), to boost trade within and beyond the ASEAN region.

According to a press statement on the ASEAN Secretariat website, MATCH is a new feature of the ASEAN Access, the online portal for business information on trade and market access in ASEAN that was first launched in June last year.

The statement added that ASEAN Access MATCH is positioning itself as “the flagship matchmaking platform in the region” and offers registered members of the ASEAN Access platform the opportunity to be a part of an international business community and create visibility for their businesses beyond the region.

Specifically, as the ASEAN Access website explained, it offers registered users the chance to participate, free of charge, in virtual cross-border matchmaking and market information events, as well as practical knowledge workshops, through their MATCH platform, and open new doors to the world of international trade.

The website stated, “We’re embracing the future, and the future is virtual. The world is incredibly connected, and it is not necessary to physically travel somewhere to participate in an event.

“This saves you time and money, while giving you the chance to meet with an even wider range of participants, from every corner of the world, and to generally participate in a big variety of events.

“Matchmaking enables you to meet with companies that you might not meet otherwise, find new business opportunities, and explore new markets. Pre-booked one-to-one meetings keep your participation targetted and efficient.

“This is supported by our market information events on ASEAN as well as other countries, with industries ranging from food and beverages to cleantech, and knowledge workshops that help you understand practical aspects and requirements of international trade.”

The ASEAN Access and, by extension, MATCH, is an initiative of the ACCMSME, spearheaded by the OSMEP, Thailand and supported by the Federal Government of Germany and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), the press statement explained.

Chair of ACCMSME and Secretary-General of the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives of Malaysia Dato’ Suriani binti Dato’ Ahmad said SMEs faced various challenges to expand beyond their country borders, citing access to reliable distribution network and cost to connect as examples.

She expressed hope that the introduction of the ASEAN Access MATCH would remove these limitations for SMEs and encourage ACCMSME members to take advantage of the tools to facilitate MSMEs under their purview to internationalise.

“In accordance with the mission statement of the ASEAN strategic plan for small and medium enterprises development 2016-2025, as ASEAN community, we are guided by our shared values, goals and responsibilities towards vibrant, sustainable and integrated economies.

“The ACCMSME specifically strives to create globally competitive, resilient and innovative MSMEs.

“The pandemic that hit us has disrupted the supply chain with devastating impacts to businesses more than ever, regardless of size.

“As the platform responsible for MSME development in ASEAN, we recognise the importance of enterprises’ understanding of regional trade policies and information so as to ensure a robust yet resilient supply chain network against future crisis.”

Touching on ASEAN Access, she said, “This portal offers information on the trade regulation, market entry, market overviews and service providers data among others for SMEs.

“Six months post launch, it is heartening to note the strong support received from the ASEAN business communities on the platform, both the SMEs and service providers alike, based on the statistics of visits received and users registered on the platform.

“The launch was only the beginning. We acknowledge much still has to be done to ensure that the ASEAN Access makes the mark within the business community to provide optimal service for SMEs in Southeast Asia and beyond.

“Beyond providing information, the introduction of ASEAN Access MATCH enables platform to connect business without limitations of geographical locations and the traditional physical brick and mortar meeting settings.”

She noted that according to the World Trade Organization (WTO), beyond the regulatory barriers to trading goods and services, the additional challenges faced by SMEs include having limited access to information and distribution channels. “Needless to say, having access to distribution networks is a crucial component for businesses, particularly in diversifying customer base domestically or internationally.

“With the rapid adoption of digital technology and wider internet penetration, it is only logical that ASEAN Access took this step to introduce the ASEAN Access MATCH, leveraging the new way of doing businesses that is not only efficient but most importantly cost effective, especially for the SMEs.”

She said that the ACCMSME welcomed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement’s entry into force at the beginning of this year and has made a priority of widening the outreach of ASEAN Access to support this implementation.

“To this end, we have been forging partnerships with economic players in ASEAN member states including SME agencies and enablers, chambers of commerce, as well as industry associations and aim to establish regional partnerships with international organisations in the future.”

“These network partners would greatly contribute to accelerating the growth of international trade in the region by supporting SMEs and other businesses through ASEAN Access and ASEAN Access MATCH.”