US companies in Asean sense opportunities, set to expand

Economy August 29, 2014 01:00

By The Nation

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US businesses in Asean are looking forward to expansion of investment, workforce growth and profit increase next year, according to the Asean Business Outlook Survey.

As 2015 and the Asean Economic Community approaches, US companies are keeping a close eye for opportunities offered by regional economic integration, although most respondents don’t believe that the goals of the AEC will be reached until 2020 or later. 
The opinion poll released yesterday at the Asean Economic Ministers Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw was designed and implemented by the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Chambers of Commerce in Asean member countries.
It included 588 executives representing small, medium and large American enterprises in all 10 Asean countries.
In Thailand, three-quarters of the respondents indicated that their company’s trade and investment in Asean had increased in the past two years and even more expect this trend to continue in the next five years. Overall, 78 per cent of executives based in the country regard Asean integration as important to helping their companies do business in the region. 
Respondents have a positive outlook on the current business climate with the majority not facing significant financing constraints nor seeing a higher cost of borrowing. 
Expansion remains high with 62 per cent of the respondents saying they expect their companies in Thailand to expand, a dip since last year’s 75 per cent, but the profit outlook remains strong with 82 per cent expecting increased profits.
“Thailand’s economic fundamentals are strong and our members report that it’s ‘business as usual’ for them and they are going forward with their expansion plans. 
“As the political situation stabilises, businesses are experiencing higher degrees of optimism and foreign investors’ confidence is returning,” said Darren Buckley, president of Amcham’s board of governors, who was attending the Asean Economic Ministers Meeting.
Government responsiveness and engagement, or lack thereof, remain a detriment to business with 45 per cent of Thai respondents reporting that the government rarely or never seeks and considers input from the private sector. Respondents in all locations most frequently cite customs departments as the government agency they are most dissatisfied with. 
Thailand’s expat workforce is generally satisfied with living and working in Thailand, as 93 per cent report satisfaction with their assignments and 87 per cent attempt to extend their stay, citing personal security, sentiment towards the US and housing costs as the biggest benefits. 
There are still concerns over the stability of the government and political system, which is an issue for 80 per cent of respondents, and corruption for 78 per cent, but this is to be expected given the recent political crisis.