More than half of the US businesses in Indonesia said the importance of Asean markets have increased over the past two years and 60 percent of the respondent said the importance will keep growing in the next two years. (Antara Photo/Muhammad Adimaja)

US Companies Maintain Optimism Towards Asean, Indonesia: AmCham Survey

BY :TABITA DIELA & MUHAMAD AL AZHARI

AUGUST 11, 2016

Jakarta. United States businesses maintain their optimism toward Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries' economies on the back of the region's growing economy and economic integration, which would enhance trade efficiency, according to the annual "2017 Asean Business Outlook Survey," released on Tuesday (09/08).

The survey polled 3,154 members of American Chamber of Commerce who conduct business in member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), and received online feedback from 519 senior executives between April 25 and May 24.

In Indonesia alone, the survey gathered views from 40 companies out of the 301 registered members of American Chamber of Commerce in the country.

"The Asean region continues to be a dynamic and important market for US businesses, and one that corporate executives cannot ignore," US Chamber of Commerce senior vice president for Asia Tami Overby said in a statement.

Asean includes Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

Marking its 15th year, the Asean Business Outlook Survey was compiled and published by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and the US Chamber of Commerce.

"With strong and sustained growth, a young population, and a rapidly expanding middle class, Southeast Asia continues to be full of exciting business opportunities," US Ambassador to Asean Nina Hachigian said in her foreword note to the survey. "This survey offers an accessible summary of the perceptions and insights of executives in American companies across the region about their experiences in Asean countries."

Indonesia

In Indonesia's case, 43 percent of the respondents said President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's government has succeeded in improving trade and investment policy with 5 percent saying it has "significantly" improved.

More than half of US businesses in Indonesia — 53 percent to be exact — said the importance of Asean markets has increased over the past two years and 60 percent of the respondents said this will keep growing over the next two years.

The Indonesia-based US businesses are pleased with the availability of low-cost labor (45 percent), a stable government and political system (40 percent), personal security (38 percent), sentiment toward the US (35 percent) and housing costs (30 percent).

However, overall, the respondents said corruption remained a significant hurdle to doing business in the Asean region.

More than half of the respondents said the Asean region's markets have become more important for global companies' revenue in the past two years, while three quarter of the executives indicated that they expect profits to increase next year.

The survey also found that US businesses see economic integration in the Asean region offering further benefits to them. Respondents said the Asean Economic Community (AEC) framework will provide greater flexibility and efficiency in managing regional operation, with almost all respondents (93 percent) believing that the AEC is important to their companies' future investment plans.

The US businesses also expect the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — of which Indonesia has expressed interest in joining — to increase their trade and investment in the region. Some 34 percent of respondents said the TPP will lead them to increase their investments in the region.

"America's private sector has invested more in Asean cumulatively than businesses from any other country. Our companies remain committed to the Asean region and we are certain that the TPP, if approved, will open the window of opportunity still wider," AmCham Singapore executive director Judith Fergin said in a statement.

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