Iloilo SMEs at China expo seeks gov’t help to reach int’l markets

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Quanzhou Expo
The Iloilo City delegation to the 5th Quanzhou Maritime Silk Road International Brand Expo in Fujian, China was headed by Mayor Jose S. Espinosa III (5th from right). -- Iloilo City Local Investment and Economic Promotion Office/Ritchel A. Gavan.

ILOILO CITY — An Iloilo City delegation participating in the 5th Quanzhou Maritime Silk Road International Brand Expo in Fujian, China last month cited the need for more government help for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) venturing into international experts.

Maria Victoria Lea L. Lara, executive director of the Iloilo Business Club (IBC), and Ritchel A. Gavan, Iloilo City Local Investment and Economic Promotion Office (LEIPO) head, both said one of the first measures needed is to create a group that will focus on helping SMEs understand the international market.

“If the city and the province are serious in helping the SMEs to reach out to foreign markets, there is really a need to come up with an international trade desk. There has to be somebody dedicated to do the specific job of checking out the requirements and standards of foreign countries,” Ms. Lara said in a news conference after the expo, which she attended.

The national government has a Negosyo Center Program offices in a number of localities to assist SMEs, but these are mainly focused on facilitating access to government services and promoting ease of doing business.

Ms. Lara said that among the challenges identified during the expo were communication with buyers, payment systems, and quality standards.

Ms. Lara noted that SMEs have to adopt to cashless modes of payment if they want to reach more international buyers.

“The international trade desk that Ms. Lara mentioned is something that we should look at. We also have to look at this cashless mode of payment since we have a big market in China,” said Ms. Gavan, who was also at the expo.

The Iloilo delegation represented the country with five booths offering various food products, such as butterscotch, turmeric, tablea chocolate, and textile products using the region’s distinctive hablon woven cloth.

“The in-demand products are usually food like butterscotch and turmeric. They also liked the bags and shoes made of hablon,” Ms. Lara said.

Ms. Gavan said onsite sales were minimal, but the Iloilo business sector received “many invitations from Xiamen. We also encountered potential venues for bringing our product to Beijing, Xiamen, and even Europe.”

As such, she added, the delegation exceeded their main goals for participating.

“We came there with three objectives: Joining and exposing our products to the trade expo, strengthening our relationship with our sister city Quanzhou, and expanding or establishing partnerships on areas of cooperation not only in Quanzhou but also Xiamen.” — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo