The V Ibero-American Forum of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, held in Lisbon, between 14 and 15 November, organized by CIP, CEIB (The Ibero-American Business Council), SEGIB (Ibero-American General Secretariat) and FIJE (Young Ibero-American Entrepreneurs), was attended by over 300 experts from all over the region.

During the two days, the significant challenges for companies were debated: sustainability, digitalisation, trade, innovation, and internationalisation.

The first day took place behind closed doors in the Casa de América Latina, with working meetings between public representatives of SMEs and representatives of business organisations from almost all the countries of Latin America. The themes focused on intraregional trade in the Ibero-American region and the digital transformation of SMEs.

The second and last day was an equally productive public session at the Centro Cultural de Belém. The conclusions of the most extensive SME survey carried out by business organisations and institutions in Ibero-America, in which more than 2,200 companies from 22 Ibero-American countries took part, were presented first-hand.

At the session’s opening, the relevance of SMEs in the business fabric of the region was highlighted. António Saraiva stated: “Traditionally, the relations with the country, both commercial and investment, have been linked to Brazil, but today there is a historic opportunity to bring Portugal, Latin America, and the Caribbean closer.”

Also, the Secretary General of SEGIB, Andrés Allamand, recalled that: “70% of employment in Ibero-America is generated by micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Therefore, this Forum is so important, because we are talking about the largest employer in our region”.

Furthermore, the importance of holding the V Forum and its effects was mentioned by the President of CEOE, Antonio Garamendi, underlining: “All the work we are carrying out in Lisbon will form part of the contributions we will take to the XIV Ibero-American Business Meeting, which will be held in March next year within the framework of the Ibero-American Conference – American Summit of Heads of State and Government in the Dominican Republic.”

Next, Portugal’s Minister of Economy and Sea, António Costa Silva, argued that: “The construction of integrated geo-economic spaces is necessary, and the Ibero-America region is fundamental in the current scenario to respond to blockages in international trade.” Regional integration, one of the themes of the intervention of the Minister of Foreign Trade of the Dominican Republic, Vilma Arbaje, was also mentioned by the OECD representative, Annalisa Primi, who stressed: “Value chains should increasingly take into account regional integration and promote supplies of easy geographical scope.”

The presentation of the SME survey results was the starting point for the three panels in the afternoon.

Experiences were exchanged on the development of SMEs through public policies or how trade can serve as an engine for the resumption of growth through initiatives that identify opportunities in value chains. And on the challenges of digital transformation in SMEs as a driver of productivity. A debate moderated by, Armindo Monteiro, vice-president of CIP highlighted the commitments of the Confederation of Portuguese Business: “CIP has two strategic objectives for its positioning towards Digital: contribute to prepare companies (leaders and workers) for the current technological disruptions and work with the entire ecosystem (public and private) to generate in the economy a favourable environment to take advantage of the opportunities for modernisation and competitiveness that the opportunity of the digital transition provides.”

Next, the former Minister of Economy, Augusto Mateus, a profound connoisseur of the Portuguese economy, went through not only the Portuguese economy, but the world economy in his speech, highlighting inconsistencies that he believes currently exist. For example, he mentioned vague concepts, widely used nowadays, such as “digital transformation.” Words that, in his opinion, without actions, represent nothing.

Finally, the closure of the V Ibero-American SME Forum was led by the Secretary of State for the Economy, João Neves.