Publication Date

January 2004

Publication Details

Harvie, C, East Asian SME Capacity Building, Competitiveness and Market Opportunities in a Global Economy, Working Paper 04-16, Department of Economics, University of Wollongong, 2004.


Over the past decade the economies of East Asia, and APEC more generally, have been opening up their markets and in the process have achieved significant gains in exports and economic growth. In conjunction with this increased economic integration there has been increased recognition by regional governments of the potential for a substantial increase in the participation by small businesses in the generation of regional income, employment, exports, investment and expanded economic growth. Advances in information and communications technology add credence to this potential. In addition, developing economies are especially seeing small businesses as potential instruments for the alleviation of poverty. This viewpoint has been given further stimulus since the financial and economic crisis of 1997-98, arising from which there has been a growing recognition of the need for the East Asian economies to engage in comprehensive restructuring of their corporate sectors, with the objective of achieving transparency, improving corporate governance and developing globally competitive enterprises. The small and medium enterprise (SME) sector can play a key role in the attainment of such objectives. This paper reviews the contribution of the SME sector to the growth and development of the regional (East Asian) economies, and their increasing importance in the attainment of a sustained recovery of the region in terms of economic growth, employment, trade and investment and the development of globally competitive economies. It also identifies: barriers to their development; key factors essential for their capacity building; strategies to enhance their competitiveness in the global marketplace; and key components relating to their export success.