US-ASEAN relations forge ahead

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John Goyer (center), Director the Southeast Asian region for the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, at a recent business meeting in Myanmar with the then-minister of construction.

The US Chamber of Commerce reports “overwhelmingly positive” prospects for trade, investment and growth in the ASEAN region, John Goyer, Director for the Southeast Asian region of the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, told Inside Investor in an interview.

By Ashley Boncimino

US business leaders report optimism and plans for expansion in the region, and recent policy delegations have highlighted the increasing  cooperation between the US and ASEAN to improve trade regulations, transparency and regional connectivity, according to an annual report released by the US Chamber of Commerce together with the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.

The survey of over 350 senior-level executives from seven of the ten ASEAN countries says that 92 per cent feel” positive or very positive” about the ASEAN investment outlook. In the past two years, 79 per cent have “increased or significantly increased” the level of their company’s investment in the region, while 90 per cent expect their level of trade and investment to increase over the next five years.

“What is striking about this is the optimism you find in the ASEAN region,” said Goyer.

“The responses were overwhelmingly positive, and the majority expects to increase their trade in the region. The expectation of continued growth is quite high,” he added.

Shifting interest

The International Monetary Fund has said that of the $22 trillion in global economic growth in the next five years nearly the half is predicted to derive from Asia. Additionally, the US Chamber’s report indicated that “significantly more respondents” plan to diversify investments or business away from China towards ASEAN, namely 21 per cent in 2012 compared to 15 per cent in 2011.

For the first time, the annual survey asked respondents about positivity towards Myanmar, to which 72 per cent indicated they either “supported or strongly supported” the US decision to suspend trade sanctions placed on Myanmar. When it comes to Myanmar, 33 per cent of respondents said they currently are planning or at least considering to export to the country, while 35 per cent said they currently are planning or considering to invest in Myanmar.

Goyer and his colleagues met in May 2012 with senior officials of the country, among them Myanmar’s finance minister, deputy commerce minister, minister for national planning and minister for construction and minister for health.

“We talked a lot about Myanmar’s plans moving forward, about how they want to open up, how they want to develop their economy, and they want us to help,” said Goyer.

“US companies have a lot of experience that they can bring to bear, to provide advice and suggestions to our counterparts [in the region],” he added.

Business events

Other US events in Southeast Asia in the past months included “Commitment to Connectivity” held in July 2012 in Cambodia, which focused on improving trade efficiency by increasing infrastructure and cooperations in tourism, education and culture in ASEAN. Held in Siem Reap, Cambodia’s temple town, the event was attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Myanmar’s President Thein Sein and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

“Here you have a region that is integrating… cutting tariffs, making steps towards liberalising trade and services, trying to harmonise standards and regulations, trying to improve the efficiencies of its customs and apparatus,” said Goyer.

“It was a conference that really focused on expanding trade and investment between the US and ASEAN, [and] looking at ASEAN as a coherent, integrated entity – not just as ten separate markets, as important as they are,” he argued.

Laws and regulations

The report also surveyed respondents on strengths and challenges in the region, along with workforce expansion predictions and the importance and effectiveness of regional trade agreements. For every country except Singapore, the report highlighted the need for improving laws and regulations in the local business environment, as well as the need for tackling issues of transparency and corruption.

“The results were pretty consistent with previous reports and surveys,” Goyer said.

“If there is uncertainty in the legal environment, if you’re concerned that laws may change suddenly and capriciously, it can make things difficult,” he added.

However, less than half of the respondents said that their companies could utilise ASEAN free trade agreement provisions to export from ASEAN to the specified country. But the majority said that free trade agreements were “important or extremely important” for their investment plans in the region.

Goyer is advocating regular consultation and dialogue between the business community and policy makers to alleviate inefficient or ineffective agreements, laws and regulations.

“This could be something as simple as consulting with businesses and stakeholders, as new laws are being considered, and seeking input – in our case – with the business community…. If you seek that input from stakeholders, you get a better output in terms of policy,” Goyer said.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

John Goyer (center), Director the Southeast Asian region for the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, at a recent business meeting in Myanmar with the then-minister of construction.

The US Chamber of Commerce reports “overwhelmingly positive” prospects for trade, investment and growth in the ASEAN region, John Goyer, Director for the Southeast Asian region of the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, told Inside Investor in an interview.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

John Goyer (center), Director the Southeast Asian region for the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, at a recent business meeting in Myanmar with the then-minister of construction.

The US Chamber of Commerce reports “overwhelmingly positive” prospects for trade, investment and growth in the ASEAN region, John Goyer, Director for the Southeast Asian region of the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, told Inside Investor in an interview.

By Ashley Boncimino

US business leaders report optimism and plans for expansion in the region, and recent policy delegations have highlighted the increasing  cooperation between the US and ASEAN to improve trade regulations, transparency and regional connectivity, according to an annual report released by the US Chamber of Commerce together with the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.

The survey of over 350 senior-level executives from seven of the ten ASEAN countries says that 92 per cent feel” positive or very positive” about the ASEAN investment outlook. In the past two years, 79 per cent have “increased or significantly increased” the level of their company’s investment in the region, while 90 per cent expect their level of trade and investment to increase over the next five years.

“What is striking about this is the optimism you find in the ASEAN region,” said Goyer.

“The responses were overwhelmingly positive, and the majority expects to increase their trade in the region. The expectation of continued growth is quite high,” he added.

Shifting interest

The International Monetary Fund has said that of the $22 trillion in global economic growth in the next five years nearly the half is predicted to derive from Asia. Additionally, the US Chamber’s report indicated that “significantly more respondents” plan to diversify investments or business away from China towards ASEAN, namely 21 per cent in 2012 compared to 15 per cent in 2011.

For the first time, the annual survey asked respondents about positivity towards Myanmar, to which 72 per cent indicated they either “supported or strongly supported” the US decision to suspend trade sanctions placed on Myanmar. When it comes to Myanmar, 33 per cent of respondents said they currently are planning or at least considering to export to the country, while 35 per cent said they currently are planning or considering to invest in Myanmar.

Goyer and his colleagues met in May 2012 with senior officials of the country, among them Myanmar’s finance minister, deputy commerce minister, minister for national planning and minister for construction and minister for health.

“We talked a lot about Myanmar’s plans moving forward, about how they want to open up, how they want to develop their economy, and they want us to help,” said Goyer.

“US companies have a lot of experience that they can bring to bear, to provide advice and suggestions to our counterparts [in the region],” he added.

Business events

Other US events in Southeast Asia in the past months included “Commitment to Connectivity” held in July 2012 in Cambodia, which focused on improving trade efficiency by increasing infrastructure and cooperations in tourism, education and culture in ASEAN. Held in Siem Reap, Cambodia’s temple town, the event was attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Myanmar’s President Thein Sein and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

“Here you have a region that is integrating… cutting tariffs, making steps towards liberalising trade and services, trying to harmonise standards and regulations, trying to improve the efficiencies of its customs and apparatus,” said Goyer.

“It was a conference that really focused on expanding trade and investment between the US and ASEAN, [and] looking at ASEAN as a coherent, integrated entity – not just as ten separate markets, as important as they are,” he argued.

Laws and regulations

The report also surveyed respondents on strengths and challenges in the region, along with workforce expansion predictions and the importance and effectiveness of regional trade agreements. For every country except Singapore, the report highlighted the need for improving laws and regulations in the local business environment, as well as the need for tackling issues of transparency and corruption.

“The results were pretty consistent with previous reports and surveys,” Goyer said.

“If there is uncertainty in the legal environment, if you’re concerned that laws may change suddenly and capriciously, it can make things difficult,” he added.

However, less than half of the respondents said that their companies could utilise ASEAN free trade agreement provisions to export from ASEAN to the specified country. But the majority said that free trade agreements were “important or extremely important” for their investment plans in the region.

Goyer is advocating regular consultation and dialogue between the business community and policy makers to alleviate inefficient or ineffective agreements, laws and regulations.

“This could be something as simple as consulting with businesses and stakeholders, as new laws are being considered, and seeking input – in our case – with the business community…. If you seek that input from stakeholders, you get a better output in terms of policy,” Goyer said.

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