March 7, 2014—The United States government and American businesses have started a new public-private partnership, the US-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. The alliance will support small businesses in ASEAN, which make up 96 percent of all enterprises in member countries and provide from 50 percent to 85 percent of domestic employment. The alliance will use training, mentorship, and cloud technology to assist businesses with human resource development and in gaining access to finance, regional and international markets, information and advisory services, and technology and innovation.
The memorandum of understanding creating the alliance was signed on March 4, 2014, in Washington D.C. by USAID Administrator Raj Shah; President of the US-ASEAN Business Council, Alex Feldman; and Procter & Gamble Vice President Carolyn Brehm, representing the Council’s ASEAN Committee. The US-funded ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment Project, managed by Nathan Associates, will be working with the Council to implement the Alliance. Lisa Yarmoshuk, a Vice President at Nathan Associates, attended the signing along with representatives of U.S. multinational companies and the US-ASEAN Business Council, including UPS and Hewlett Packard (HP), and Myanmar’s Ambassador U Kyaw Myo Htut.
Mr. Shah reiterated his support for public-private partnerships and the importance of ASEAN to the Obama Administration. Corporate representatives described their engagement in partnerships and support for small businesses in ASEAN. P&G, which chairs the Council’s ASEAN Committee, has contributed $80,000 so far. The UPS Foundation began providing grants to SMEs two years ago. And HP’s Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs (LIFE) program trains entrepreneurs worldwide in IT and business skills.
Council President Feldman explained that the Alliance “will build on the Council's widely praised SME training program” and that the “Council and USAID's new ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment program will partner to expand the resources, scope, and diversity of SME training in the run-up to the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.”
Ms. Yarmoshuk described Nathan Associates’ support for ASEAN over the past ten years and how partnerships like the Alliance play to America’s strengths in supporting development and are creating a path for future cooperation. Nathan Associates collaborated with USAID and the Council to design the public-private partnership through the ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment project, and has already worked with HP to support SMEs in ASEAN and is planning similar activities with Microsoft, Fedex, and Qualcom.