Top business leaders in the Asia-Pacific region who plan to increase their investments over the next year have listed Singapore, China, Indonesia and the United States as their preferred destinations, according to a survey released at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit.
But the Apec CEO Survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers also found that just slightly over half of the business leaders polled are planning to invest more over the next year.
And only about 28 per cent of them said they were very confident about revenue growth over the next 12 months, similar to sentiments last year.
The survey results come as Apec's policy support unit warned in a report that rising trade barriers may hurt the region's consumers and businesses alike.
Dr Denis Hew, director of the policy support unit, said that while tariffs across the region remain low, at about 5 per cent, there are now more measures restricting trade and fewer facilitating trade.
"A move away from globalisation and free trade threatens to unleash greater protectionism that would hurt consumers, close off trade for small businesses and further weigh on growth," he added.
Rising economic inequality has fuelled a growing backlash against globalisation that saw Britons vote to leave the European Union in a referendum in June, and Mr Donald Trump clinching the US presidency last week on an anti-trade platform.
Dr Hew said Apec economies should help their workforce adapt to economic and technological changes, adding it will "buoy employability and confidence in the trading system".
The report by his unit suggested putting in place training and skills development programmes that will prepare workers for new industries that depend on technology.
Meanwhile, trade and foreign ministers at the Apec ministerial meeting said anti-globalisation sentiments had to be addressed, by ensuring the fruits of free trade are more evenly distributed.
Peru's Second Vice-President Mercedes Araoz said some have questioned the merits of greater economic integration, saying it would benefit only big companies and not regular folk. "The most important thing is that people are receiving the benefits," she added.
Peru's Foreign Commerce and Tourism Minister Eduardo Ferreyros said Apec should set a good example of what free trade can achieve for the man in the street.
"We understand the challenges ahead are great but we strongly believe if we continue working on trade liberalisation and facilitation, we will contribute to greater efficiency and competitiveness. This can in turn generate greater growth and ultimately set higher living standards for our people," he said.