We’re at a crossroads in global trade, one that can usher in a golden era for Asia’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, initiated during the global economic downturn in 2009, finally concluded this month in Atlanta.
The nations involved – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States – represent close to 40 percent of the global economy and a third of the world’s trade.
The historic free trade agreement, pending parliamentary approval by members, would open up new opportunities for both big and small companies looking beyond their home markets for growth.
The SME sector typically lacks the resources to navigate the complexities of trade regulations or invest in physical distribution centers overseas – let alone break into dominant domestic business networks to get their products to market. TPP would level the playing field, laying the foundation for broader production networks and more e-commerce.
Experts argue that trade reforms make it easier for every artisan, every entrepreneur and every peasant farmer to sell their goods freely in other markets. Greater trade means greater opportunity, bringing prosperity to communities stuck in an endless cycle of poverty.
UPS has worked with TPP negotiators for more than five years on the Customs and Trade Facilitation chapter to ensure the agreement reflects the competitive realities of modern trade and supply chains.
Preferred SME suppliers are no longer competing solely on price, but also responsiveness, lead time, on-time delivery and the ability to collaborate with other firms to manage supply chain risk and disruption. We also know that half of all Asia-based online shoppers would abandon their shopping carts if shipments take more than 11 days to arrive. And on average, Asian online shoppers are willing to wait just four days for their shipments.
To thrive – or even survive – businesses must get customers what they want when they want it.
TPP addresses many of the problems SMEs face in today’s marketplace. The trade pact provides time-release guarantees for express shipments, advanced rulings for classification and valuation and self-certification of origin.
Such measures were designed for the small business owner, as they enhance predictability, simplify border clearance processes, shorten lead times and bolster competitiveness. Combined with express delivery and logistics services, these new rules provide the spark for SMEs to participate in global trade.
In short, TPP supports the rigors of 21st century trade.
Now is the time for SMEs to go global. For those still on the fence, now is the time to share your dreams, your aha moments and your big ideas with the world. Now is the time for small to think big.
Nando Cesarone is president, UPS Asia Pacific Region.