By Anna Gabriela A. Mogato

THE official network for young entrepreneurs under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was launched on Tuesday to boost regional trade and ensure a process of succession for the next Business Advisory Council leaders.

Headed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the second ASEAN Young Entrepreneurs Carnival (AYEC) is expected to boost economic progress with the participation of young entrepreneurs and promote inclusivity among member-nations.

The AYEC, chartered in January this year, will serve as an “avenue for conferences and meetings to develop partners” that will also extend toward non-ASEAN member-countries, said Rommel S. Gerodias, AYEC chairman and president of the Philippine Young Entrepreneurs Association.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters they will also be focusing on initiatives “to integrate the youth in policymaking” and strengthen regional trade among MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises).

Mr. Lopez also said the network would “improve existing youth programs as it relates to trade integration and investments,” and elicit “greater collaborations from the youth perspective” in integrating technology in business models.

“[W]e know the policy right now within Asean is to strengthen further the integrated economy. There’s the trade and investment, and the cooperation that we look forward to (among) the youth (to) play a more active role (in),” he added.

“I would expect maybe new programs can emanate from the session on other dimension(s) that can strengthen further the ASEAN community.”

The regional bloc’s economic ministers are aiming to push ASEAN, currently the sixth largest economy, as the fourth largest in the world by 2050.

Trade Undersecretary Norra K. Terrado, who’s also chairperson of the ASEAN Committee on Business and Investment Promotion, said the goal is to connect the youth and enhance awareness on regional integration.

Ms. Terrado also said that, aside from policies, she sees more “programs that will enable them to have access to markets, access to capital, access to mentorship.”

She anticipates AYEC to boost more public-private partnerships.

ASEAN Business Advisory Council chairman and Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Ma. A. Concepcion III said they plan to introduce mentorship by November.

Mr. Gerodias, for his part, noted that other objectives include encouraging more young entrepreneurs as well as regular dialogue between the youth and their governments.

At present, he said, they are working on a tripartite agreement with the National Youth Commission, DTI, and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry to accommodate young entrepreneurs.

“We are (also) studying…a way to putting up a funding program for the young entrepreneurs in the ASEAN and, as of this time, it is still under study so,…we will push forward perhaps on the hosting of Singapore (next year),” Mr. Gerodias added.

This year’s AYEC is in partnership with the ASEAN-Business Advisory Council, Philippine Young Entrepreneurs Association, National Youth Commission, and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Malaysia hosted the first AYEC last year.