Each year AmCham Singapore collaborates with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other AmChams in the region to survey senior members from U.S. companies to gather insights about business conditions and sentiment in Asia-Pacific.
The findings of the ASEAN Business Outlook Survey are presented in intimate discussions with government representatives from all 10 ASEAN countries, including multiple government agencies in Singapore. AmCham’s annual ASEAN Business Outlook Survey shares the insights of senior American business leaders located across the ASEAN region. These respondents are charged with making investment decisions on behalf their companies, offering them a unique opportunity to shape the character of development across ASEAN. This year’s respondents remain generally optimistic about business prospects in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations but the optimism has gradually declined over the past few years.
Trade and Investment in ASEAN
In a poll of about 500 senior executives representing U.S. companies in all ten ASEAN countries, 72% reported that their company’s level of trade and investment in ASEAN has increased over the past two years, and an overwhelming 86% of respondents expect it to increase over the next five years. Over half (53%) of respondents said that ASEAN markets have become more important in terms of their companies’ worldwide revenues over the past two years; this is ten percentage points lower than reported two years earlier. In addition, two-thirds (66%) of respondents this year expect ASEAN to become more important in terms of worldwide revenues over the next two years; while still high, this is 7 percentage points lower than two years earlier.
Current Local Business Environment
Although U.S. companies remain optimistic about business prospects in the ASEAN region, they identified a variety of concerns and impediments to their growth in the region. As in previous years’ surveys, corruption was the top issue across ASEAN, cited by the majority of respondents in all countries except Brunei and Singapore. American companies also highlighted burdensome laws and regulations, lack of transparency, poor quality of infrastructure, and the difficulty in moving products through customs in some countries as obstacles to greater investment. 77% of respondents to this year’s survey reported that exchange rate volatility has a “significant” or “somewhat significant” impact on their business operations in the region.
ASEAN Economic Community
2015 is a milestone year for ASEAN, as the region aims to have the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), at least major elements of it, in place by the end of the year. According to the survey, the vast majority (75%) of executives surveyed across all 10 ASEAN countries believe that ASEAN integration is important in helping their companies do business in the region and consider each of the four regional agreements to be important to their companies’ investment plans in the region – Comprehensive Investment Agreement (63%), Framework Agreement on Services (70%), Trade Facilitation Work Program and Strategic Plan of Customs Development (66%), and Trade in Goods Agreement (58%).
The ASEAN Business Outlook Survey is the only study of its kind and showcases the perspectives of senior business leaders in ASEAN. The report has a global readership and is relied on by both business leaders and policymakers across the region. The report gives policymakers a unique window into the sentiments of business leaders, and offers them a chance to address identified issues in order to attract greater business investment in their respective countries. Additionally, the report provides business leaders insights into the opinions and projections of their counterparts on the ground throughout the region.
Our 2016 edition marks the fourteenth year of the survey and the third year in which we have collected data from all ten ASEAN countries. AmCham Singapore and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce presented the survey results at the 47th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting in Malaysia on August 24th.
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