A new survey has found that 80 per cent of firms regard the Asean Economic Community (AEC) as a good business opportunity and believe it will accelerate growth in their industries.
However, the same percentage of respondents said they are bracing themselves for tougher competition when the AEC comes into force.
The report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) includes a survey of more than 230 business leaders and senior government officials, both within and outside the region, who were polled on their views about Asean.
While 70 per cent of the poll's respondents said they believe more intense competition will encourage Asean companies to internationalise, 81 per cent said they expect SMEs to lose out.
BCG partner and managing director Michael Meyer and co-author of the report said: "Whether they plan to compete across the region or to just defend their turf, most Southeast Asian companies will have to raise their game."
The Asean Economic Community (AEC), which is due to come into force by the end of 2015, aims to create a single market and production base across the region, with minimal barriers to trade and investment.