Vientiane, Laos - U.S. companies remain optimistic about business prospects in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), even in the face of global economic headwinds and challenges, according to the annual ASEAN Business Outlook Survey, released today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (“AmCham Singapore”).
In a poll of senior executives representing U.S. companies in all 10 ASEAN countries, 78% expect their profits to increase in 2017, with more than half (53%), reporting that ASEAN markets have become more important for their companies’ global bottom line.
“The ASEAN region continues to be a dynamic and important market for U.S. businesses, and one that corporate executives cannot ignore,” said Tami Overby, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president of Asia. “As our fourth-largest trading partner, growth in ASEAN also means more jobs here in the U.S. as our companies increase exports and sales to the region’s expanding middle class. To continue this robust trading relationship, we must complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to solidify America’s commitment to the region. If we miss this window for TPP, it will have a significant negative impact on the U.S. economy over the long haul.”
The ASEAN Business Outlook Survey, marking its fifteenth year, found that the region’s economic growth was the top reason survey respondents expect ASEAN markets to be more important for their companies’ worldwide operations and revenues over the next two years, garnering 73%. The rise in middle class and consumer class emerged as the second most important indicator, with 46% of executives singling out that factor.
“America’s private sector has invested more in ASEAN cumulatively than businesses from any other country. Our companies remain committed to the ASEAN region and we are certain that the TPP, if approved, will open the window of opportunity still wider,” said AmCham Singapore Executive Director Judith Fergin.
Economic integration within the 10 countries is underway with the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) aiming to further increase the competitiveness of the region. A near unanimous 93% of those surveyed believe the AEC is important to their companies’ future investment plans. The most frequently suggested future priority areas of work to enhance regional integration were combating corruption (62%), improving transparency (57%), and enhancing good governance (56%). Agreements like the TPP can help address issues like these by laying the foundation for a modern, high-standard free trade area of the Asia-Pacific region that includes four ASEAN countries—Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Fergin added, “As ASEAN works to build a more integrated community, U.S. companies need to continue to work more closely with government officials and private sector counterparts from all ten ASEAN nations to identify policies that will best promote long-term economic growth and expand opportunities for all our businesses and citizens.”