Thailand has a 70% readiness level, but the country needs to develop the remaining 30% before the AEC starts in late 2015, said Deputy Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan.
The framework calls for Asean members to eliminate tariffs on most products and liberalise up to 70% of the service sector by 2015, the capital market in 2020 and investment in some agriculture and mining.
Thailand has already approved liberalisation of 104 segments of the service sector, but 24 remain.
He said the government is prepared to help SMEs develop their human resources, productivity, financial accessibility and technology upgrades.
Last year, the government established an ad-hoc committee to ease the impact of the global economic slowdown, the minimum wage hike to 300 baht a day and the strengthening baht on local SMEs.
Mr Niwatthamrong said SMEs contribute 37% of the country's GDP and 30% of its export value. There are 2.6 million SMEs in Thailand representing 90% of the country's business operators and 80% of its labour force.
Isara Vongkusolkit, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said Thailand needs to improve its import and export procedures.
Pipavat Bhadranavik, a senior vice-president of Kasikornbank (KBank), said strong cash flow is more important than the bottom line for local SMEs preparing to expand into Asean markets. Though Asean's combined population of 601 million provides plentiful business opportunities, it also brings tougher competition, Mr Pipavat told a seminar on SME preparation for AEC held by the Office of Small and Medium Enterprise Promotion yesterday.
"Local SMEs should improve their financial statements to comply with international standards to build up confidence among regional business partners," he said.
To facilitate increasing investment by local companies in Asean, KBank, the country's fourth-largest bank by assets, plans to increase its partner banks to at least 40 in Asean+3 - which includes China, Japan and South Korea - by year-end.
In a separate development, Mr Niwatthamrong said the government will organise a meeting among related agencies in the next few months to revise the export growth target this year.
Mr Pipavat remains optimistic export growth in the second half will improve if the economy picks up in the US, Europe and China.