Asean Conference 2019: Businesses to take the lead to help region integrate

The ASEAN business community should forge ahead with integration efforts despite political uncertainty

Amid global political uncertainty, businesses in ASEAN should lead initiatives to foster greater collaboration and integration within the regional grouping, and not depend solely on governments to do so, said Minister for Trade and Industry Mr Chan Chun Sing at the ASEAN Conference 2019 held on June 4.

In a dialogue with Singapore Business Federation (SBF) CEO Mr Ho Meng Kit, Mr Chan made this call as a response to the rise in populist politics seen in the West, and the danger that this might happen in ASEAN.

Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry Mr Chan Chun Sing in dialogue with SBF CEO Mr Ho Meng Kit

“What ASEAN businesses can do is never underestimate one’s power and responsibility. Many collaboration and integration efforts can be led by the private sector. When we say ‘let’s integrate trade platforms to seize the opportunities in sharing data flows’, you don’t need to depend on the government,” he said.

He cited the examples of platforms such as CALISTA, an initiative by port operator PSA International. The global supply chain system brings together the key activities of logistics on a digital platform to reduce inefficiencies for the global supply chain. Likewise, banks and technology companies can drive the development of standardising cashless payments systems.

“One day, businessmen travelling across borders will not have to worry about different payment services. What is stopping the business community in taking the lead in such integration? It’s about business partners coming together to talk about the data standards you all want to adopt,” said Mr Chan. He added that business chambers from different countries can also play a role in fostering collaboration.

In his opening remarks at the conference, UOB Deputy Chairman and CEO Mr Wee Ee Cheong touched on the importance of a more connected ASEAN in staying competitive and resilient. “A more connected ASEAN will help embed the region’s integration into the global economy, create more economic opportunities, grow incomes and lift living standards,” he said.

SBF Chairman Mr Teo Siong Seng delivering the welcome address

SBF BusinessASEAN Network

In line with calls for greater integration and collaboration, SBF launched the BusinessASEAN Network at the ASEAN Conference 2019 to help companies expand into the region. The initiative will be made up of market-focus business groups — one for each target country — and will bring together business leaders and other stakeholders to connect. Beginning with BusinessVietnam, Businesslndonesia, BusinessThailand and BusinessMyanmar, the network will eventually expand to cover other ASEAN countries as well.

“These market-focus groups will help SBF obtain an in-depth understanding of companies’ needs, so that we know how to best furnish resources, including market knowledge, regulatory requirements and business connections to facilitate companies’ expansion into the wider ASEAN region. Additionally, we hope to foster collaboration amongst local businesses, so that they can work together to collectively offer more compelling and competitive value propositions,” said SBF Chairman, Mr S.S. Teo.

SBF is also working with its overseas partners to build new business-to-business platforms to strengthen collaboration. This is on top of existing business councils that SBF has set up with its counterparts in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Interested businesses can find out more about the SBF Business Asean Network here