By Bradley Dunseith
Stretching eastwards from Myanmar through Thailand and Cambodia to Vietnam, the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC) aims to further integrate the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by improving connectivity and trade. In Cambodia, new clusters are growing around border towns and in existing industrial hubs along the route of the SEC. Foreign businesses are investing in Cambodia, benefiting from both the country’s cheap labor pool as well as the improved connectivity brought on by the SEC.
SEC: a snapshot
The SEC is one of the many development projects initiated in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). The GMS is a natural economic area loosely connected by the Mekong River – the 12th longest river in the world. The GMS spans an area of 2.6 million square kilometers and a total population of 339 million people, as of 2015. In 2015, trade within the GMS amounted to US$444 billion.
By: Koushan Das
Established over 50 years ago, Thailand’s automotive sector has developed into the biggest automotive hub in Southeast Asia and one of the largest in the world. As of 2016, Thailand stands as the 13th largest automotive manufacturer in the world. The country offers a dual advantage in terms of a large domestic market as well as an established automotive cluster of component suppliers. The industry accounts for nearly 12 percent of Thailand’s GDP and employs more than 500,000 people including the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEMs) and Tier 1, 2, and 3 suppliers. Japanese OEMs hold 85 percent market share while the US OEMs account for the remaining 15 percent.
By Alexander Chipman Koty
About 133.6 billion pieces of rubber gloves – 63 percent of the world total – came from Malaysia in 2016, as the Southeast Asian nation has carved a niche in the industry. Exports were worth an estimated RM 14.3 billion, continuing the country’s streak as the world leader in rubber glove production for over two decades running. 2016’s revenues represent 14 percent growth over the RM 12.1 billion accumulated in 2015.
The global rubber glove industry is expected to maintain strong annual growth of 8 to 10 percent over the coming years, including demand for an estimated 55 billion additional gloves over the next five years, primarily driven by increasing consumption in emerging markets. Malaysia could be the largest beneficiary of this increasing demand, as export revenue from rubber gloves is projected to reach RM 15.2 billion in 2017.
By Harry Handley
Southeast Asia is one of the four key target regions for international expansion in the consumer foodservice industry for 2017, according to Euromonitor research. ASEAN boasts a well-developed food culture, as well as a consumer preference for dining-out and a young, curious, and experimental population.
To support the development of the region’s foodservice industry, the ASEAN secretariat introduced a new food safety policy in 2016. The policy sets out 10 principles aimed at harmonizing food safety regulations and advancing regional integration in the industry. ASEAN leaders hope that a more closely integrated and transparently regulated market will lead to further interest from international companies.
As ASEAN’s foodservice industry gradually becomes more integrated, opportunities for regional expansion are rife. However, catering to local tastes in the foodservice industry is crucial, and though they share commonalities, each Southeast Asian country also boasts their own unique consumer preferences. Consequently, both identifying the preferences of the target market and choosing the appropriate entry model is instrumental to achieving success in the region.
By Harry Handley
In recent years, the Malaysian government has worked tirelessly to achieve their goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2020. Through the government’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), a number of key service industries have been heavily promoted and subsidized in order to make this goal become a reality – one of which is e-commerce.
Despite almost 70 percent internet penetration in 2015, only five percent of Malaysian businesses had an online presence. Many leading experts believe that the Malaysian e-commerce market is at an inflection point and may be about to experience a serious boom period. Along with rising incomes, growing smartphone and internet penetration is expected to increase the proportion of online retail spend in Malaysia from 0.5 percent of total retail spending (2014) to five percent by 2020. This makes it an interesting time to assess the state of the market, in terms of government initiatives, consumer trends, incumbent players, and opportunities for foreign firms.
By Mike Vinkenborg
With the government of Myanmar recently passing its new Investment Law, taking effect in April 2017, the country is showing its continued commitment to attracting foreign investment. After reopening its economy in 2012 following several political reforms beginning the year before, Myanmar has been receiving significant increases in foreign direct investment, reaching a high of US$9.5 billion in the 2015/2016 fiscal year ending in March. To put this in perspective, the total amount of FDI added up to only US$329.6 million in 2009/2010, the year before the military ceded power. While oil, gas, and energy remain the sectors with the highest FDI inflows, investments into Myanmar’s manufacturing industry are rapidly gaining traction, having risen from just US$33.2 million to over US$1 billion in the same period, and hitting a high of US$1.8 billion in 2014.
As China strives to move up the value chain and focus more on high-end manufacturing, the country’s wages have risen to the point where many garment manufacturers are looking to invest elsewhere. Cambodia and Vietnam have already established themselves as alternatives, and now Myanmar is bringing a new labor force to the competition. Clothing exports have already gone up from US$337 million in 2010 to US$1.46 billion in 2015. And now that the economic sanctions by the EU and US have been lifted, the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) has set a target for exports to increase to US$12 billion by 2020. Doing so would create an estimated 1.25 million new jobs, a sharp increase from the approximately 250,000 people currently working in the garment industry.
By: Alexander Chipman Koty
With the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of 2015, many ASEAN members have witnessed increasing harmonization of economic policies. The removal of trade barriers and increased openness throughout ASEAN is partly a result of the implementation of pre-arranged regional integration and standardization measures, but is also caused by growing competition between ASEAN members themselves to attract foreign investment. Real estate is one area which has been the target of liberalization efforts in many ASEAN member states in recent years, and has subsequently witnessed considerable growth.
Between 2005 and 2014, investments reached US$28.19 billion, largely coming from investors outside the region. Investment in the sector is poised to continue growing at impressive rates in the coming years as restrictions on foreign investors are eased and the region’s emergent middle class exercises increased spending power. Emerging markets including Vietnam, Indonesia, and Cambodia have been conducting reforms to make foreign involvement in their real estate markets more accessible, presenting a wide range of opportunities. However, considerable obstacles remain when investing in ASEAN’s real estate market. Despite an improving investment landscape, many countries continue to have highly restricted land ownership laws, including short land tenures and restrictions on the ability to re-lease and renew land. As much of the region grapples with high urbanization rates and inadequate infrastructure, governments must balance the desire to attract foreign capital with providing their citizens with affordable housing.
By: Cascade Asia Advisors
As businesses look away from China and towards other countries to fulfill their manufacturing needs, Indonesia is an increasingly attractive prospect. With a massive workforce, a growing middle class, and newly established investment incentives, Indonesian leaders are making clear their commitment to promoting Indonesia as a hub of manufacturing in Southeast Asia.
Although Indonesia shows promising signs of growth in the manufacturing industry, regulations governing the sector are still cumbersome and are further complicated by governmental red tape. Ambiguous legislation, combined with stark regional differences in infrastructure, make it imperative for prospective investors to understand the Indonesian manufacturing climate. In this respect, Manufacturing in Indonesia: new options, opportunities and challenges, published by Cascade Asia Advisors, provides a clear overview of the current investment environment and considers the investment incentives, the fastest growing sectors, and the most cost effective locations in the country.
The following is a brief outline of Cascade Asia’s insightful article, which highlights the momentum that will move Indonesia closer to its goal of rebuilding its manufacturing industry.
By Cameron Gilchrist
As internet penetration rates continue to rise in Southeast Asia, ASEAN grows more interconnected by the day. Home to over 663 million inhabitants, the region is projected by many to be among the world’s most promising markets for a variety of internet based services. Chief among these are services involved in what has been coined the “sharing economy” – a loose collection of peer-to-peer services known to substantially lower costs for key necessities such as transport and accommodation.
In a 2014 study conducted by Nielsen, Indonesia and the Philippines ranked as two of the top five populations worldwide primed to participate in the sharing economy. While Indonesia ranked second in the study, with 87 percent of respondents reporting a willingness to utilize products within a sharing economy, the Philippines only trailed by two percentage points, earning fourth place.
By: Aysha Nesbitt
As the world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia is among the most important producers of aquaculture globally. In 2001, Indonesia ranked fourth in aquaculture output and has since increased its fishery exports to US $4 billion in 2015. Though Indonesia’s aquaculture industry has begun to make strides, it is still far from realizing its full potential.
In an effort to harness its comparative advantages, the Indonesian government has made monetary commitments to the sustainability of the industry and is working to relax regulations surrounding foreign investment. Upon their election in 2014, both President Joko Widodo and Susi Pudjiastuti, the Minister of Maritime and Fisheries, have been working to establish strategies to promote and expand Indonesia’s fisheries.