Working together for a stronger ASEAN

Businesses in Southeast Asia need to collaborate further to enhance the region’s resilience

Entrepreneurs, corporate chieftains and government leaders from across Southeast Asia gathered in Singapore in November to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the region’s business and investment landscape.

This year’s ASEAN Business & Investment Summit (ABIS), held in conjunction with the ASEAN and East Asia Summit, saw over 1,000 participants hear from distinguished speakers on topics related to the growth of the economic bloc. The two-day event, co-organised by Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and ASEAN Business Advisory Council, also featured over 40 exhibiting organisations displaying their products and services, with Country Pavilions from Singapore, Japan and Laos, among others.

In his opening address, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged businesses across the region to accept more competition in their home countries and not resist the opening of domestic markets to foreign competitors. “The more integrated and open our markets are, the more conducive our rules and business environments to foreign investment, the larger the pie will grow, and the more we will all benefit,” he said.

Keynote Address by Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad said in a keynote speech that there is a need to understand that each country in ASEAN is at a different stage of economic development when it comes to efforts to integrate the grouping. In particular, he said  there should be flexibility in adopting certain policies so that “countries that are ready to move fast will be allowed to do so first, but to always be mindful of the constraints of the others”.

To enhance ASEAN economic integration, an initiative by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council known as Smart Growth Connect (SGConnect) was unveiled at ABIS. SGConnect aims to support urbanisation in ASEAN by developing a modern supply chain that enables an efficient flow of goods.

Recognising Regional Entrepreneurs

The annual ASEAN Business Awards (ABA) were also held in conjunction with ABIS. Launched in 2007 by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, ABA recognises enterprises from the region with the potential to grow beyond their home country to become global players. Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob was Guest of Honour and presented the 2018 awards at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore hotel on November 12. It was held

ABA was enhanced this year with the introduction of the ASEAN Family Business Award category. The new honour serves to recognise outstanding multi-generational family businesses whose sustainable business models have made a significant impact in the ASEAN community.

ABA’s other award categories are:

  • Priority Integration Sectors (a total of 17, covering major sectors such as Aviation and Energy);
  • SME Excellence – Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Employment, Growth, and Innovation;
  • Friends of ASEAN;
  • Young Entrepreneur;
  • Women Entrepreneur; and
  • Sustainable Social Enterprise.

ASEAN Young Entrepreneurs Carnival

SBF also organised the ASEAN Young Entrepreneurs Carnival that took place during the ASEAN Summit. The carnival aims to nurture a more robust network of young entrepreneurs and business leaders in the region. Themed ‘Smart Leaders: Smart Business’, this year’s edition brought together around 300 young business leaders from 10 ASEAN countries, China, India and Australia. The two-day conference, held on 12 and 13 November 2018, focused on financing and innovation to help businesses grow.