Chairman's Address To The Apec Sme Meeting

  • Max Bradford
Enterprise and Commerce

Ministers, excellencies, my Parliamentary colleagues, representatives of APEC business, leaders of local bodies, ladies and gentlemen.

I have great pleasure in welcoming you here to the APEC Small and Medium Enterprise Meeting 1999 and the JADE business forum.

I am particularly pleased to be welcoming you to an APEC event that has a focus on small and medium enterprises - for two reasons.

Firstly, SMEs make up a significant component of business in all APEC economies.

As in your countries, SMEs in New Zealand are especially significant.

Secondly, small and medium businesses, together with all businesses, should be the immediate beneficiaries of the work that APEC is doing in the region.

APEC is about making it easier for business to grow, and therefore our peoples to prosper.

APEC's work is about making it easier and simpler to do business.

Since its inception in 1989, APEC has realised significant achievements.

Considerable progress has been made in encouraging APEC economies to reduce tariffs.

APEC has also realised significant benefits for businesses by removing non-tariff barriers to trade.

But we cannot be content to rest on our laurels.

As our Prime Minister outlined to you, in our year in the Chair, we are concentrating on three themes for APEC New Zealand 99.

They are:

To work with other economies to strengthen the functioning of markets.

To expand opportunities for doing business throughout the APEC region.

And to broaden support for and understanding of APEC in the community.

Our work at this conference can help to build a stronger platform for further advances within APEC.

Over the next two days we will discuss a number of issues of specific relevance to SMEs that fit within the "strengthening markets" theme.

Ministers will consider the question of how APEC responds to last year's economic crisis.

Discussion will focus on developing a shared understanding of the effects of the crisis on SMEs in APEC, and what are the effective government and business responses.

The crisis has served to highlight the importance of SMEs in generating growth.

With their characteristic flexibility, creativity and innovative capabilities, SMEs are capable of adjusting quickly and effectively to the impact of the crisis.

They will play a key role in the economic and social adjustment, and regeneration within APEC.

The crisis has also reminded us how interdependent APEC economies are.

Without exception, APEC Economic Leaders in Kuala Lumpur last November re-affirmed their commitment to the APEC goals of free and open trade, and investment.

Underlying this commitment is a widely held view that the crisis is only a temporary setback to Asia's emergence as an economic powerhouse.

In Asia there remains huge potential for growth, bringing with it unprecedented market opportunities - and challenges - for SMEs.

Leaders also agreed on the need for further structural and regulatory reform to strengthen the region's financial markets and business sectors.

At this conference, we will consider the issue of barriers to SME trade and development that are created by national regulation.

In some ways it has never been easier to trade into APEC markets.

We are on the start of a steep upward slope where technology and E-commerce will drastically reduce the tyranny of time and distance.

The fact remains that many businesses trading within APEC still face difficulties.

Business often has to comply with regulations which are obscure and complicated.

Regulation imposes additional costs, which destroy, rather than create wealth.

It is for the regulatory environment to adapt to the new ways SMEs are conducting their business, rather than the other way round.

Ministers and businesses will also discuss ways of strengthening capital markets for SME growth.

The availability of capital is essential for the development of the high growth potential, but potentially risky, SME sector.

Central to this APEC SME meeting, will be the encouragement of further work to build the capabilities of APEC's institutions and our people, to participate fully in the integrated regional economy.

A particular focus will be management education.

Discussion will aim to identify the characteristics of an education and training market meeting the needs of economies for a growing pool of competent SME managers.

A thriving SME sector needs:

positive attitudes towards risk-taking, self-reliance and wealth creation,

technical skills matched by management skills in people who aspire to own SMEs,

access for SME managers to appropriate sources of advice and expertise.

We will also consider what SMEs themselves must do to ensure they continuously improve their management capability.

These issues - reducing compliance costs, strengthening capital markets and management education - are interlinked and central to progress in strengthening APEC markets.

My sense is that APEC members want progress in these areas as they grapple with the fallout from last year's Asian financial crisis.

New Zealand's second policy theme for APEC 99 focuses on expanding opportunities for doing business throughout the APEC region.

The business forum is considering a particular issue related to this theme - enhancing business linkages in the Asia-Pacific Region.

The focus here is on removing roadblocks to SME development both by enhancing access to technologies that reduce the barrier of distance, and by encouraging SMEs to form strategic linkages with complementary enterprises in other economies.

The rapid growth of information technologies, particularly Internet and E-Commerce, have created enormous opportunities for SMEs to grow through forming linkages.

Our third policy theme for APEC 99 is broadening support for, and understanding of, APEC.

This theme recognises APEC must be an open process driven by the needs of people in society and worked up in consultation with them.

A vital part of this is consultation with business.

The Government sees APEC New Zealand 99 and this APEC SME event as being very much a partnership with the business community - a partnership for business growth, a partnership for recovery.

As you know, this meeting is characterised by an active business dimension, and I welcome the input from the private sector directly to Ministers.

This has been mirrored in our approach to organising these meetings - very much a joint effort between Ministers and the business sector, supported by our officials and other interest groups.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, the Canterbury Development Corporation, Canterbury Manufacturers Association, the Christchurch City Council, Te Runanga O Ngai Tahu, and Canterbury Tourism for their splendid commitment to this event.

I would also like to thank Gil Simpson and Jade for their sponsorship of the business forum.

It is appropriate that the colour and image chosen to represent this SME event is "Awe Black".

It represents pride and competitiveness - both essential qualities for those working in and for SMEs.

Traditionally this has been associated with sport - particularly rugby - in which New Zealand is one of the top competitors in the world.

On the sports field New Zealanders thrive on competition and celebrate success.

It is my hope that New Zealanders come to see their business achievers, in particular small business entrepreneurs, in the same way they view their sporting heroes.

I wish the same for all SMEs in the Asia-Pacific region.

Each of us have our strengths and weaknesses.

In most countries, education and research play a pivotal role in economic success.

I imagine most, including New Zealand, would agree we have a long way to go to achieve world best standards.

Indeed, we should strive to set new standards in APEC that are a model for the Americas and for Europe.

At this conference we have an opportunity to learn from each other and help to increase the size of our economic pies.

If we succeed, there will be more to go round for our peoples, as the total size of international trade increases.

I hope you will enter into the spirit of how we have structured this conference.

It has been designed for a more free-wheeling exchange of views and experiences between Ministers themselves and between Ministers and business.

After all, our mutual objective must be to improve living standards and job accessibility for our people of the APEC region.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this 1999 APEC Small and Medium Enterprise Conference.

Haere mai, welcome to New Zealand.