Introduction

ASEAN is vital to our regional prosperity and security. Since the report 'Why ASEAN and Why Now' was published in 2015, ASEAN has become more prosperous and its trade and investment partnership with Australia has strengthened.

ASEAN as a region accounted for 6.8 per cent of world total trade in 2016, and received 5.8 per cent of the world's foreign direct investment inflows.1 ASEAN is increasingly at the crossroads of world trade, but the real story and attraction lies in its substantial growth prospects. This potential is a result of factors including favourable demographics, rising urbanisation, relatively low national debt levels, abundant natural resources, and proximity to the powerhouse economies of China and India.

The diversity of ASEAN markets, both between and within countries, remains a challenge but also represents an opportunity for Australian business. The ASEAN Community is continuing to develop a harmonised economic market to achieve lasting growth and prosperity across the region.

This report provides a snapshot of the opportunities this dynamic region offers Australian businesses.

Section one highlights Why ASEAN Matters to Australia. ASEAN ranks among our largest export markets. Investment and our strong people-to-people links, including through travel and education, are expanding.

The ASEAN Community is continuing to develop a harmonised economic market to achieve lasting growth and prosperity across the region.

Section two covers What's Driving Growth and Opportunities for Australian Business. The declaration of the ASEAN Economic Community, and Australia's Free Trade Agreements, have strengthened ASEAN's attractiveness to businesses and investors. Favourable economic conditions, such as a youthful labour force and increasing urbanisation, are actively underwriting this positive future. The ASEAN in 2030 sub-section presents key features that might define the region in the medium term, viewed through a business lens.

Section three sets out Opportunities by ASEAN Market. These explore the key trends and commercial opportunities for Australian businesses in each ASEAN market, such as a growing appreciation for our quality food, produce and wine, increasing demand for our services expertise and desire for our investment to meet the region's significant infrastructure and energy needs.

Section four looks at How Should Companies Approach Doing Business in ASEAN? including seven practical tips for success and where to obtain advice and assistance.

The experiences of a range of small, medium and large exporters and investors are highlighted in case studies throughout the report which demonstrate Australian successes in ASEAN.

Section five highlights case studies of Australian business – both large and small – operating across ASEAN and their insights into doing business in the region.

Research suggests that Australia is well behind other economies including the United States, China and Japan in levels of trade and investment with ASEAN.2 To remain internationally competitive, Australian businesses need to move now to build relationships, establish connections and expand their footprints to optimise their chances of capitalising on ASEAN's future growth.

Now is the time for Australian business to focus on our nearest neighbours, to understand and pursue the once-in-a-generation opportunities that the region offers.