The ASEAN flag is raised (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – The Small and Medium Enterprise Corporation Malaysia (SME Corp Malaysia) together with other relevant agencies carried out 60 outreach programmes nationwide this year, according to its Chief Executive Officer Hafsah Hashim.

The programmes have significantly created better awareness and understanding among industry players on various issues, including those related to ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

On a survey conducted in April this year, only 1.3 percent of the 2,336 Malaysian SMEs surveyed really understood how the AEC is going to benefit them and only 13 percent of the companies had heard about the AEC.

A similar survey conducted last September and October indicated that 60 percent of them have had good knowledge of AEC's benefits as well as better understanding on TPP.

The SMEs must reposition themselves to stay competitive and tap the vast business opportunities and markets across ASEAN following the establishment of the AEC by the year-end, announced Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the 19th National SMEs Development Council meeting held in Kuala Lumpur on November 30.

He said, with the AEC, there would be greater liberalisation of tariff and non-tariff barriers among ASEAN members.

It is important that Malaysian SMEs to either achieve relative economies of scale or to develop high-valued propositions in order for us to remain competitive vis-a-vis similar SMEs in other ASEAN countries, he added.

He said this was also crucial as the TPP, which was expected to come into effect in two years, would bring many benefits as well as challenges.

The PM said the SMEs recorded better growth rate compared to the overall economic growth.

The annual average growth rate of the SME sector was 8.6 percent from 2012 to 2014 compared with 5.4 percent for the gross domestic product during the same period.-VNA