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US business in Asean optimistic about increased profits

Aug 16. 2016
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By The Nation

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US companies remain generally optimistic about business prospects in Asean, even in the face of global economic headwinds and challenges, according to the annual Asean Business Outlook Survey released by the US Chamber of Commerce and the US chambers in A

In a poll of senior executives representing US companies in all 10 Asean countries, 78 per cent said they expected their profits to increase next year, with more than half (53 per cent) reporting that Asean markets had become more important for their companies’ global bottom line.

Close to half of the surveyed companies (49 per cent) expect to increase their Asean workforce by the end of this year.

The overwhelming majority of respondents (87 per cent) expect that their companies’ level of trade and investment in Asean will increase over the next five years.

In Thailand, seven in 10 executives expect profits in the region to increase next year, up from the 50 per cent who were optimistic about increased profits in last year’s survey.

In a worrying trend, however, 35 per cent of respondents described the overall investment environment in this country as deteriorating. By contrast, a significant majority of those surveyed in Cambodia (65 per cent), Myanmar (70 per cent), the Philippines (77 per cent) and Vietnam (72 per cent) characterised the investment environment in their respective countries as improving.

Respondents in Thailand identify corruption, local protectionism, lack of a stable government and political system, and the difficulty of moving goods through customs as the biggest impediments to doing business here.

“The Royal Thai Government understands that due to regional development trends and global free-trade agreements, the region is becoming increasingly competitive, and has consequently made efforts to improve the business environment and attract foreign direct investment,” said Brad Middleton, president of AMCHAM Thailand.

“The government’s measures and strategies range from providing incentives for regional headquarters and start-ups to developing the country’s digital economy. We applaud these measures and urge the government to do more to stimulate the economy and encourage investment, such as relax visa rules, improve protection of intellectual-property rights, and synchronise customs rules with international best practices.

“AMCHAM is at the government’s disposal to provide consultation [and] expertise and share best business practices.”

American executives in Thailand are of the opinion that increased political stability and regional and global integration will have a positive impact on the ease of doing business in Thailand.

Some 82 per cent of those surveyed reported that the ongoing political stalemate was affecting their business, while 83 per cent believe that Thailand should join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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