Foreword by the minister for trade, tourism and investment

Australian business have an exciting opportunity to capitalise on the significant and growing opportunities available on our doorstep in the ASEAN region.

The statistics are compelling.

Already equivalent to the fifth largest economy in the world, the ASEAN region is expected to grow by at least 5.4 per cent each year for the next decade and beyond, well above the global average.

The region's 637 million people are young and entrepreneurial – by 2030, 500 million people in ASEAN will be working age.

There is a strong fit between ASEAN's growth drivers and the goods and services Australia has to offer. The region has a young, and increasingly urbanised, digitised, educated and wealthy consumer base, but it is experiencing skill shortages in key industries.

There is immense appetite for Australian quality and consistency in foodstuffs. There is high demand for our expertise and talent in services. There is strong interest in Australian capacity to meet the region's significant infrastructure and energy needs.

Our existing regional and bilateral partnerships are broad and deep. Taken as a whole, ASEAN is one of our top three trading partners, and is a growing investment partner. Five of our top fifteen bilateral trading relationships are with ASEAN countries.

The ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) and our bilateral FTAs with Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand deliver our businesses a competitive edge. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and a future bilateral trade agreement with Indonesia will offer further opportunities for Australian business to link into the wider region.

I highly encourage Australian businesses to invest in understanding ASEAN. Encouraging Australians to develop skills for operating in Asia will ensure we continue to benefit from our proximity to ASEAN's growth. Nimble and outward looking businesses stand to profit most.

The Turnbull Government is doing its part. We are building stronger relations than ever before and have invited the leaders of ASEAN to a Special Summit in March 2018. The ASEAN-Australia Business Summit alongside it will also lay the groundwork for further trade, tourism and investment cooperation.

We are pursuing the most ambitious trade agenda in Australian history and ASEAN is central to this. I am pleased to present this timely publication to assist Australian businesses to capitalise on the opportunities of closer engagement with this dynamic and growing region.

The Hon Steven Ciobo MP