US firms upbeat about S-E Asia outlook: Survey

United States companies operating in South-east Asia remain optimistic about business prospects in Asean in the face of global economic headwinds.

The annual Asean Business Outlook Survey released yesterday by the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, expressed confidence and satisfaction about doing business in the region.

The survey's release coincided with its presentation to the Asean Economic Ministers Meeting in Vientiane, Laos.

In a poll of around 500 senior executives from US companies in all 10 Asean countries, a little over half of them said the regional market has become more important for their companies' global bottom line. More than three-quarters of the respondents expect their profits to increase next year.

Ms Tami Overby, US Chamber of Commerce's senior vice-president for Asia said: "The Asean region continues to be a dynamic and important market for US businesses, and one that corporate executives cannot ignore."

Economic integration among the Asean nations is under way, with the Asean Economic Community (AEC) aiming to improve regional competitiveness. More than 90 per cent of those surveyed believe the AEC is important to their companies' future investment plans.

"To continue this robust trading relationship (with Asean), we must complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership to solidify America's commitment to the region. If we miss this window for TPP, it will have a significant negative impact on the US economy over the long haul," said Ms Overby.

Access to a well-educated and skilled talent pool in Asean was cited as an advantage to increase US investments in the region. The respondents said they value creativity, analytical problem-solving and effective communication skills among the local staff.

A third of US firms in Asean expect to increase their investments in the region with the implementation of the TPP agreement.

The survey emphasised the need for improvements in good governance among the priority areas in which Asean governments and US businesses could collaborate on.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2016, with the headline 'US firms upbeat about S-E Asia outlook: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe