AAYLF delegate from Australia Yuanliang Wen explores the opportunities for Australian businesses in the Southeast Asian region.
There is tremendous potential for Australian businesses to capitalise on the significant opportunities in the Southeast Asian region. The region is set to have one of the largest young, educated and digitised consumer base with rising incomes, but it currently lacks many key skills and industry expertise. As a regional economic bloc, ASEAN’s combined GDP of US$2.5 trillion already makes it the world’s seventh-largest economy, and the region is set to become the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2030, with growth rates significantly higher than the global average. Being logistically close, culturally familiar and a joint history of maintaining stability in the region, there are a lot of opportunities for Australian and ASEAN businesses to collaborate to develop in the future. Some factors are particular promising:
- Shifting rural-urban immigration with expanding cities accelerating economic growth;
- Rising consumer income and the growing middle class with greater purchasing power;
- A steady stream of innovation and digital technology disruptions, fostering high growth in e-commerce and digital services; and
- Deepening regional integration and a stronger sense of united identity, including the influence of Australia’s FTAs and the growth-driven by expansion in China’s outward investments and trade.
Current level of integration:
Long-term economic growth is highly dependent on innovation, and currently, Australia is doing well in establishing strong scientific partnerships with all ASEAN members, especially in areas of health, medicine and earth sciences. Significant breakthroughs include a promising new leukaemia treatment, better ways to manage chronic hepatitis B, a new understanding of quantum phenomena, and a better understanding of factors that contributed to previous Antarctic ice melting.
CSIRO has also been on the forefront in driving collaboration in research and innovation in the region. CSIRO’s new ASEAN hub in Singapore will help continue the development of research partnerships with Singapore in areas like precision health and high-performance computing, and a role in the DFAT-led Aus4Innovation initiative to strengthen Vietnam innovation system. CSIRO research has also had successes in being commercialised, such as Novacq’, a prawn feed product that enables prawn farmers to grow prawns in a faster, cheaper, healthier and more sustainable way. The Melbourne company Ridley now sells in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as China and some smaller South Pacific markets. These are good examples of how innovation and collaboration have helped develop both the sustainability and development of the region.
In order for the future business and research leaders to take advantage of the opportunity for mutual growth, a few things should be necessary.
- Expansion of cultural and political understanding between Australia and ASEAN, especially between young people. This could involve more cultural exchanges and activities, stronger support for students to travel to study in across the region and more investment into language training in schools from the primary level.
- Facilitating the development of relationships and collaboration between businesses and researchers across the region. This could include developing industry and in-country visit of business leaders, creating networks between entrepreneurs and improve research collaboration between universities.
- Stronger political alignment and mutual respect between Australia and ASEAN countries. This could involve developing a comprehensive strategy in the engagement of the ASEAN region, facilitating high-level exchanges between political leaders and senior officials and more directed aid and investment programs into the region.