Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a very heterogeneous group of businesses usually operating in the service, trade, agri-business, and manufacturing sectors. They include a wide variety of firms such as village handicraft makers, small machine shops, and computer software firms that possess a wide range of sophistication and skills. Some are dynamic, innovative, and growth-oriented while others are satisfied to remain small and perhaps family owned. SMEs usually operate in the formal sector of the economy and employ mainly wage-earning workers. SMEs are often classified by the number of employees and/or by the value of their assets. The size classification varies within regions and across countries relative to the size of the economy and its endowments. It is important to note that there is a minimum as well as a maximum size for SMEs.
SMEs comprise 95% of businesses in the Asia Pacific region and employ nearly 80% of the workforce, play a critical role in the regions economy and will be vital in its recovery and growth in 2010. The globalisation of business has increasingly drawn SMEs into global value chains through different types of cross-border activities. Many entrepreneurs are recognizing the opportunities that this process offers and gaining access to global markets has become a strategic instrument for their further development. Access to global markets for small businesses can offer a host of business opportunities, such as larger and new niche markets; possibilities to exploit scale and technological advantages; upgrading of technological capability; ways of spreading risk; lowering and sharing costs, including R&D costs; and in many cases, improving access to finance. Gaining access to global markets can help prospective high-growth firms realize their potential and are often an essential strategic move for SMEs with large investments.
The Southeast Asia- Latin America (SEA-LAC) Trade Center of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce aims to build the bridge in terms of trade and investment between the two regions by launching the program targeting participant from public and private sectors as well as academic institutions from Thailand and LAC countries. The program is created to allow a selected group of participants to exchange views and share experiences on the changing context of Trade and Investment between Thailand and Latin American countries and on the challenge of inter-regionalization of SMEs.