Growing regional trade opportunities with ASEAN

Melbourne will host the Australia-ASEAN Business Forum and Gala Dinner 2022 in May, with Victorian Chamber Chief Executive Paul Guerra confirmed as a panellist at the forum.

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The Australia-ASEAN Business Forum is one of the region’s premier trade and investment forums, offering an invaluable opportunity for those interested in diversifying their export markets.

ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is the premier southeast Asian regional association that counts Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam as member countries.

As a trading bloc, ASEAN is Australia’s second largest trading partner and an important player on the global stage with many alliances and partners. Its 10 members are some of the most dynamic economies in the region, with a combined population of 660 million people

Australia-ASEAN Business Forum and Gala Dinner 2022

The Australia-ASEAN Business Forum will be held on Monday, 23 May 2022 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel and will be jointly hosted by the 10 ASEAN Heads of Mission based in Canberra.

The one-day event will highlight the opportunities, challenges, and case studies by 30 industry champions on five industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, education, health and medical industries, digital transformation and food & agriculture. Sessions will cover:

  • Australia in the ASEAN Economic Community
  • Investment in Advanced Manufacturing/Supply Chain
  • How Education & Training affect the Economy
  • Importance and challenges with Digital Transformation
  • Agriculture development and food security
  • Investment in Medical/Health Industries
  • ASEAN in the Asia Century for Australia

Mr Guerra, who has held numerous positions across the Asia Pacific, will be a panellist at the ASEAN in the Asia Century for Australia session.

“The ASEAN Business Forum offers an exceptional opportunity to engage with ASEAN, grow our expertise and strengthen our regional partnership,” Mr Guerra said.

“A changing economic landscape means Victoria is in a unique position to create trade opportunities with some our nearest regional neighbours.

“We have much to offer and can become a smarter, more productive and competitive economy by diversifying and growing our reputation in new markets.”

The Australia-ASEAN Business Forum will take place from 8.30am-5pm and will be followed by the Gala Dinner from 7-10pm.

More information and registration details can be found here.

Interview

The Victorian Chamber was grateful for the opportunity to speak with H.E. Ms. Busadee Santipitaks, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Commonwealth of Australia, in the lead-up to the Forum for additional insight into the Australia-ASEAN relationship.

What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming Australia-ASEAN Business Forum in Melbourne?

I welcome the opportunity to participate physically at the Australia-ASEAN Business Forum and wish to thank the organisers for coming up with the event.

I look forward to meeting with the representatives of the key industries/sectors to engage actively and to find opportunities to strengthen ASEAN-Australian business relations through Victoria. We welcome Victoria’s Strategy for South East Asia and such a forum would help to implement some of its objectives.

In addition, the impressive line-up of high-calibre speakers from a wide range of business sectors will help to shape future ASEAN-Australian economic engagement and regional economic growth.

What are your favourite aspects of the ASEAN alliance, particularly some of the benefits it has delivered for its members?

ASEAN has progressed for more than five decades (celebrating 55 years this year since its inception) across the political-security, economic and socio-cultural pillars which have contributed to ASEAN’s peace, stability, security and prosperity over the years.

The relevance of this regional grouping, with over 670 million people, is the ASEAN Economic Community, which aims to create a single market and production base for the freer flow of goods, services, investment, capital and skilled labour within ASEAN. In doing so, it aims to increase physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity, narrow the development gap and taking advantage of the existing free trade agreements, and most importantly the benefits from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Through its relations with Dialogue Partners that play vital and important roles in the region, including Australia, ASEAN has been engaging in dialogue and open to interaction in various fields of cooperation and collaboration that will be beneficial to all. We welcome that ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations have been elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

ASEAN has been resilient, dynamic and evolving over the past years, particularly, during the height of the pandemic and coping with COVID-19. We believe in international collaboration and joint efforts to tackle challenges and to ensure a sustainable economic recovery process for all.

The cultural diversity and heritage in ASEAN have provided a strong foundation for engagement with other nations, especially people-to-people to ties, which result in other tangible results.

What do ASEAN countries import the most from Australia and what opportunities exist for Australian businesses to export into ASEAN?

Australia’s $101 billion two-way trade with ASEAN in 2020 exceeds Australia’s trade with the US and Japan. Australia’s two-way investment with ASEAN in 2020 was over $242 billion. In 2019, Australia ranks eighth as ASEAN’s export and import destination.

As a resource-rich country, Australia’s main exports to ASEAN comprise natural resources and agricultural products. Australia’s main export in services include education related sectors.

Although the diversity of ASEAN markets can present challenges, they also present opportunities for Australian businesses. ASEAN’s dynamic growth in goods, services are opportunities for Australia. Potential collaboration should include support to regional economic recovery and meet the growing needs, including sectors relating to agribusiness and food; education and training; health care; financial business and services. Other opportunities include digital technology, defence and advanced manufacturing, infrastructure and the resources sector.

We also hope that Australia will support the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity which entail investments in infrastructure, digital and physical as well as the know-how or capacity building/human resources development.

As for Thailand, we hope that Australia will also work with us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, as Thailand is also ASEAN’s Coordinator for Sustainable Development and we host the ASEAN Centre for Sustainable Development and Dialogue. We also see the Bio-Circular-Green Economy Model as a way to achieve long-term prosperity and sustainability.

How important is ASEAN for our regional prosperity and recovery from the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and global conflicts?

ASEAN appreciates that Australia supports ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture which has contributed to regional stability and prosperity. Through its various ASEAN-led mechanisms and processes, this has ensured that continued dialogue and engagement across the sectors and at the highest levels, especially the Senior Officials, Ministerial and Summit Meetings have been maintained and served as basis for trust and confidence-building.

Through these efforts, ASEAN is able to engage with all sides as well as being an ‘honest broker’ that can help sustain peace and stability in the region. We believe that continuous support to the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and the ASEAN Economic Recovery Framework and the implementation will be highly important and relevant.

Multilateralism and joint efforts are still key for engagement. Collaboration among ASEAN Member States, as well as with their Dialogue Partners and relevant external partners, is necessary for post-pandemic economic recovery.

Through cross-sectoral collaboration, commitment and collective action can we then achieve common goals to provide the necessary stability and prosperity for the region and most importantly for the economic livelihoods and people’s wellbeing.

What challenges exist for ASEAN in the future and how can we strengthen our regional relationship?

ASEAN has faced many challenges and will continue to face more. Amidst the increasing strategic rivalry and competition between the major powers in the Indo-Pacific region, ASEAN does not wish to be drawn and caught between the US and China. We believe that through consultations, dialogue and settlement of disputes through peaceful means, and upholding the UN Charter and relevant international law will be vital to overcome any difficulties.

ASEAN countries face their own unique social, economic, and political challenges. Regional issues such as Myanmar, Situation on the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, will continue to be discussed. Other non-traditional security threats will continue to preoccupy ASEAN such as cyber-security, counter-terrorism and transnational crimes, human trafficking and illegal migration, drug trafficking, natural disasters, environmental degradation, pandemics, economic and social disparity, among others.

In moving forward, building on the ASEAN spirit, ASEAN still believes in working collaboratively rather than individually to strengthen the community building process and enhance resilience as we face the disruption caused by the global pandemic.

Therefore, ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations and Australia’s engagement in the East Asia Summit will be important to support ASEAN’s vision to achieve and maintain a stable and peaceful region. Cooperation through continued understanding and engagement will still be key to achieve our common goals.

In the pursuit of peace, stability and prosperity, ASEAN’s existing architecture and mechanisms will support the engagement of partners in the region. Maintaining strong people-to-people links and education ties will also be vital in this regard.

 

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