• EYE ON TARGET

    Asean builds muscle to become global player

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    Keep the conversation going.

    THAT’S what Junie del Mundo, CEO of communication firm EON Group, tells his fellow business leaders, as the Asean Economic Community nears the close of its second full year since its launch – and remains challenged to fully deliver on the promise of regional integration.

    That Asean conversation continues with the 2017 CEO Conference of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), which del Mundo will head.

    This year’s conference is decidedly focused on unlocking the values that regional integration brings, with its theme Asean in Business: Building Partnerships in a Growth Network—and looks to push the agenda of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) forward.

    Several Philippine companies are certainly on the same page, with giants Ayala, International Container Terminal Services, Jollibee, Liwayway, Metro Pacific, San Miguel, Universal Robina and United Laboratories already leading the way in spreading familiar Filipino brands and services across the region.

    This year’s MAP CEO Conference will feature three tracks aimed at carrying the integration conversation forward:

    Track 1 – Driving Inclusive and Innovation-led Growth;

    Track 2 – Building a People-Oriented and People-centered Asean; and

    Track 3 – Positioning Asean as a Model of Regionalism and a Global Player.

    Anson Bailey of KPMG Hong Kong, Marc Dragon of Singapore’s Y3 Technologies, Aldie Garcia of Isla Lipana / PwC Philippines, and Chan Park of Uber Southeast Asia will speak in Track 1; Richard Skinner of PwC Singapore, and JP Ellis of Indonesia’s C88 Financial Technologies, in Track 2; and Elaine Tan of the Asean Foundation, in Track 1.

    MAP says the speakers will talk about what it takes to build and enable partnerships and networks. It adds that the conference will inspire participants to see their role in Asean in a whole new light.

    Track 1’s talks are programmed to expound on market-disrupting innovations. Bailey will speak on the changing Asean consumer landscape, sharing actionable insights from available data; Dragon, drawing from his experience in the startup scene, will share his thoughts on building a culture of innovation in the business sector, and will highlight what established businesses can learn from the startup culture, going beyond traditional thinking and processes, and ways, to promote inclusive, innovation-led growth;Garcia will present the results of a MAP-PwC survey on Asean Business: Building Partnerships in a Growth Network; and Park will describe the innovation race in the digital world, what the platform economy has in store, and what businesses can do to embrace innovations to survive and grow in this new disrupted world.

    Track 2 will focus on how businesses can leverage the Asean consumer—t ouching on what sets each of the peoples of the ten Asean member nations apart from each other and from those of other markets, as well as what brings them together as a region. Skinner will contextualize the current Asean Economic Community—a markedly different one today, from when it was launched nearly two years ago; while Ellis will offer lessons on expanding new businesses in old industries.

    Track 3 is all about the people of Asean. Tan will impart her insights on what makes the Asean people unique as individual nations and as one integrated region, as well as her thoughts on how ASEAN governments, businesses and civil society can work together to leverage on this uniqueness to promote growth across the region

    International economist and risk expert Dr. Thierry Apoteker, chair and chief economist of TAC Economics, will deliver the keynote address. He will be sharing his thoughts on building partnerships in an environment of heightened protectionism and uncertainty.

    Conference Track 1 will feature the most speakers—and is correspondingly expected to spark the most conversations. The topic is in consonance with the Philippines’ choice of inclusive, innovation-led growth as a priority theme, as it leads Asean this year – the 10- member bloc’s 50th anniversary.

    The country is bent on “instituting an enabling environment that allows micro-, small- and medium-enterprises (MSMEs) to develop and internationalize through policies that ease the cost of doing business, and through support activities that nurture their continuous growth.”

    The overall theme of the Philippine chairmanship of Asean 2017 is Partnering for Change, Engaging the World, capturing the country’s resolve to have the Asean Community “tread by a sense of togetherness and common identity, and take its rightful place in the global community of nations”.

    According to del Mundo, MAP continues to drive these conversations not only between the government and the business sector, but with the broader business communities of Asean, with the aim of jointly chart the region’s destiny.

    “With the opportunities and challenges that come with integration, it is crucial to discuss how we can collaborate to achieve progress that is both inclusive and sustainable,” the he explains.

    The continued conversations can be crucial to Asean. It has been observed that trade within Asean remains weak still, outpaced by that which its member countries have with others outside the bloc. Asean itself values this at $510.96 billion, corresponding to 23.48 percent of the region’s total trade.

    National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School Department of Strategy and Policy head Professor Andrew Delios recently commented: “Today, intra-Asean trade ties remain weak. With the exception of Laos, Asean countries’ trade with economies outside of Asean still outpaces intra-Asean trade by a factor of three. By comparison, intra-Nafta (North American Free Trade Agreement) trade surpassed extra-Nafta trade levels in just five years after Nafta’s implementation.”

    In the Philippines, a recent study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) shows that Filipinos are “moderately familiar” with Asean—and have a “modest identification” of themselves as citizens of the region. The issues that Filipinos relate to on a regional level, deal with climate change and natural disasters, territorial and maritime disputes, trade and investment, agriculture and food security, and income disparity and social inequality. PIDS further finds that Filipinos perceive media coverage on Asean to be inadequate.

    Still, others are more hopeful of Asean’s economic prospects.

    PwC’s Growth Markets Center recently observed that regional coalitions such as the Asean Economic Community (AEC) has brought with it inter-connectivity between global markets, leading to advancements in manufacturing activity. Its World in 2050 report sees the long-term potential of the Asean region, based “on its relatively dynamic economies in the fastest growing part of the world.” Just last month it wrote that as of 2015, 11,328 Japanese companies had expanded to Southeast Asia.

    To monitor its progress, the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta this year began issuing its Asean Economic Integration Brief (AEIB), highlighting updates on the Asean Economic Community, its outlook and key statistical indicators.

    Its inaugural issue last June, was highlighted by a commentary from former World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy, who noted:

    “Public awareness of the AEC, its objectives and what it entails is lacking even among people in the region. Asean needs to leverage the region’s strong economic performance to win stakeholder support. This requires meaningful public participation in shaping the region’s economic integration agenda and in its implementation.”

    The Management Association of the Philippines’ 2017 CEO Conference is doing just that.

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