The chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Philippines, has highlighted the importance of linking ASEAN micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to multinational companies (MNCs) to propel economic growth.

The ASEAN Economic Bloc (AEC) is a major milestone in regional economic integration. One of the Philippines key deliverables is the Focused and Strategic (FAST) Action Agenda on Investment, according to Ramon M. Lopez, secretary of the department of trade and Industry (DTI) and chairman of the board of investments (BOI). FAST promotes the integration of MSMEs in the regional production network.

Other deliverables of the FAST Action Agenda include ASEAN-wide assessment of the outstanding issues on trade-related investment measures, assessment on the establishment of an ASEAN investment tribunal and an assessment of the business registration among ASEAN in support of the investment facilitation goal of the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement.

Lopez noted that the AEC Blueprint 2015 did emphasise on including MSMEs in the global value chains of many large and multinational ASEAN companies.

The government is working towards greater trade facilitation, self-certification and creating an ASEAN and national single widow to assist the trade transactions in the bloc, a newspaper report in the Philippines quoted Lopex as saying.

MSMEs and MNCs from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand and Myanmar submitted interest on possible business collaboration, particularly in automotive, engineering services, supply of agricultural products, and manufacturing.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the ASEAN region was $96.7 billion in 2016, second among FDI inflows in Asia and the world.