How Australian businesses can tap into the ASEAN opportunity

Australian businesses are facing exciting opportunities right on their doorstep in Southeast Asia, but most of them aren’t aware of it. Even those who are aware of these opportunities often fail to capture their full potential because of gaps in their business strategies. 

AlphaBeta Director Fraser Thompson, in his role as inaugural President of the Australia-ASEAN Chamber of Commerce (AustCham ASEAN), helps Australian companies understand how they can tap into the region’s dynamic economies.

The ASEAN region is an economic powerhouse. Stretching from Myanmar to Indonesia, with a young and entrepreneurial population, rising consumer class and strong growth outlook, it is equivalent to the world’s fifth-largest economy. ASEAN is also Australia’s third-largest export destination, bolstered by a comprehensive free-trade agreement that gives Australian businesses a competitive edge to sell products and expertise into Southeast Asian countries.

‘Australia is still batting well below its economic weight in the ASEAN region’
Fraser Thompson, Director AlphaBeta Singapore

However, many Australian firms have yet to figure out how to do business in these ASEAN markets, says Fraser Thompson, Singapore-based Director of AlphaBeta and President of the Australia-ASEAN Chamber of Commerce, which was officially launched by the Australian Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, in June this year. AustCham ASEAN is an umbrella organization representing over 3,000 Australian corporate members.

“Australia is still batting well below its economic weight in the region,” says Dr Thompson. “Australian companies invest almost 60 percent more in New Zealand than they do in ASEAN, even though the New Zealand economy is less than one-tenth the size of ASEAN.”

AlphaBeta, with its expertise in combining detailed knowledge of the ASEAN economies with strategic advice, has contributed to a new report “ASEAN Now. Insights for Australian Business” that was this month published by the Australian Government. The report shows that, to remain internationally competitive, Australian businesses need to move now to optimise their chances of capitalising on ASEAN’s future growth.

In our interview, Dr Thompson explains how six major trends, from urbanisation to technological progress, could create unprecedented opportunities for Australian businesses in ASEAN, and recommends three broad areas of strategic action for businesses trying to capture these opportunities.

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