The Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) includes Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It is a deeply diverse region, rivalling China and India for growth, with a combined GDP per capita of US$ 4,010.
From a trade perspective, ASEAN’s diverse economies are highly accessible for investment and exports – especially from the UK. The region has a young population with a strong emerging middle class and steadily developing infrastructure links. This makes ASEAN an exciting and dynamic part of the world, with huge opportunities for business.
During the International Trade Conference session, Adrian Short discussed ASEAN as a newly emerging block of a similar size (in terms of population) as Europe. “You can really pinpoint which countries are good for your point of entry,” he said.
Short suggested that businesses looking to expand overseas should look at the World Bank Group’s Ease of doing business rankings, where ASEAN economy Singapore is ranked as the number one market. He added that routes to market are actually better and easier through ASEAN than going through India or China.
Kevan Watts explained how the Prime Minister’s recent visit to South East Asia highlights the importance of these countries, emphasising how essential it is to trade with ASEAN. The UK-ASEAN Business Council also recently launched its ASEAN Insight Campaign, which is focused on educating UK SMEs about opportunities for business within this region. “Britain in South East Asia is already conducting many trade missions and activities with SMEs,” added Short.
Opportunities for SMEs in ASEAN
An exciting, young, and rapidly growing region, ASEAN offers especially strong opportunities in the infrastructure, services, construction and consultancy sectors. The region has a strong history of trade – “Trading is part of the DNA of these nations,” said Short, in reference to the spice route and Silk Road. In addition, the UK quality brand is well recognised, understood and appreciated in South East Asia. Watts advised that businesses can even go a long way in English if they’re not completely confident in local languages: “It’s about doing business, helping ASEAN grow and delivering benefits to your own company back in the UK.”