The second ASEAN-Portugal Forum on Strenghtening Economic & Business Partnerships was held on last April 28th 2016 at the Instituto de Cooperação e da Língua, Camões, in Lisbon.
In this Forum the visitors had the chance to know some of the projects and business opportunities existing today in Southeast Asia. The countries members of ASEAN (Association of SouthEast Asian Nations) were presented as promising stages for investment in several areas, given special focus on the countries representated by speakers: Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
The event was organized by SPI (Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovação – Portuguese Inovation Society) and by ASEAN Committee formed by the Embassy of the Philippines, the Embassy of Indonesia and the Embassy of Thailand in Lisbon, with the support of EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EUMCCI) and it received, among others, H.E. the Ambassador of the Philippines, H.E. the Ambassador of Indonesia and H.E. the Ambassador of Thailand in Portugal.
Estamos Juntos was present in the Forum with the objective of knowing this geographical area better as a potential target to expand its projects. What we have heard and talked about during the event increased our interest in this region as an area of great important for us.
Each of the 10 countries members of the ASEAN is individually an interesting market for investment. However, of course, as members of the ASEAN, all their potential is reinforced, creating a large community of great opportunities.
The ASEAN community creates a large economy of over 600 million people and a land surface of over 4.5 million km2 (plus a huge area on sea). The free trade politics taken by ASEAN promotes exchanges of products and services inside the community, supporting local industries, improving the competitiveness and making the region more attractive for foreign investment. If ASEAN was one country, it would be the 7th largest economy in the world, and it is growing. It is estimated that by 2050 it would become the world’s 4th largest economy.
ASEAN is composed by countries with diversity of language, culture, religion and economic maturity.
ASEAN is a huge consuming market, with a GDP per capita growing consistently in the last years and verifying a significant reduction of poverty. It is estimated that the number of families with an income above USD 7500 per year is in 2015 of 125 million, about twice as much as in 2010.
The population in ASEAN is turning rapidly to the information technologies. A very high mobile phone penetration exists today (110%), as well as a high penetration of internet usage (25%).
ASEAN is a large exporter, especially of agriculture products, textiles, electronics, automobile parts, minerals and mining products, services and tourism.
(Map of the countries that compose ASEAN*)
Today there is a wide set of points of interest for foreign investment in ASEAN. The companies have a world of opportunities to expand their businesses to this geography. In particular the areas of agriculture, infrastructures, energy (renewable, efficiency, distribution), transports, information technologies, nutrition, consuming goods, technology for water, information and physical security, education, among others.
It is important to notice that ASEAN is a diverse community with many differences between its members. There are special and specific needs for each. The potential investor should get informed about each specific county in order to identify which one is the ideal market to risk on. The diplomatic representations in Portugal are excellent starting points to begin the creation of relations and to obtain information.
Portugal had through its history, especially during the XVI and XVII centuries, a close contact with this region. It had a strong presence in Malacca (in today’s Malaysia) where we may find today many historical buildings from that time; it had intense commercial relations with the region of Siam (today part of Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam); the expedition that took the first Europeans to the Philippines was commanded by the Portuguese Fernão de Magalhães.
Despite the long history of interactions, today the Portuguese presence in this region isn’t strong. This area is thought of, usually, as a great destination for tourism (and it is, indeed, given its history, culture, gastronomy, people, landscapes, good weather), and not so much as business destination. ASEAN is, though, a large and fast growing market, avid for investment and capable of offering all the resources that a company may need.
It would be interesting, therefore, that Portugal turned once more, like in the XVI century, to this geographic area and searched for the values that can be taken from cultural and commercial exchange with these countries.
There is a world of opportunities for foreign investment in ASEAN.
Estamos Juntos is an international company. We had or have projects in Africa, Europe and Central America. We have inherited something from the Portugal from XVI century: we are small but we have experience and expertise which gives us confidence and a great will to expand to new horizons in the world. Now our eyes are looking to Southeast Asia. We will look for the opportunities and do our best to, also there, we may give our best contribute for more and better access to information and better use and reach of information technologies, in order to make organizations safer, more effective, more efficient, more communicative and more fair.
*ASEAN is composed by the following countries (in alphabetical order): Brunei, Cambodja, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietname. The official website is http://www.asean.org/.
(Carlos Sampaio and Mabille Tamala (Estamos Juntos) with Michelle Jayag from the Embassy of the Philippines in Lisbon)