Spun out of UKTI in 2011, the UK-ASEAN Business Council (UKABC) provides assistance to UK businesses looking to enter 10 diverse markets in Southeast Asia, ranging from the advanced and accessible economies of Singapore and Malaysia to the developing, high-growth markets of Cambodia and Myanmar. It is no exaggeration to say that there are opportunities for UK companies across all sectors.
UKABC provides practical advice and guidance on how to do business in south east Asia, using their ASEAN Export Specialists, Geoff Charlesworth and Paul North, to link through to expert business partners in ASEAN – the British Chambers of Commerce. They also bring ASEAN to the UK through a sustained calendar of events including market/regional briefings, targeted meetings with ASEAN decision-makers, and promotional events.
They have a fantastic website listing over 100 DIT export opportunities, links to a range of publications about doing business in the region, and support events ranging from informative webinars to Trade Missions for companies keen to experience the region for themselves.
The ten countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations currently attract more foreign inward investment than China and is the third fastest growing region in the world, only behind India and China. Southeast Asia’s economic dynamism is substantially enhancing the buying power of a growing middle class that is driving new consumer demands for luxury products. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) predicts that the size of the middle class in emerging Asia will increase from 24% of the population in 2010 to 65% in 2030.
With the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, there has never been a greater need to build a strong partnership with ASEAN – both with the institution itself and its ten member states. ASEAN’s economy is on target to eclipse Japan’s and be the world’s fourth largest ‘single market’ after the EU, US and China, within the next ten years. This means UK companies need to be looking to ASEAN as an export destination.
‘Brand Britain’ has never been stronger in the region, and there is great demand for products with the ‘Made in the UK’ label, valued for their remarkable high quality. The prospect of these ten dynamic markets, better connected and harmonised as a single market, should make ASEAN an extremely attractive investment destination for UK companies.
Challenges selling into the ASEAN region
In an interview with us in 2016, Paul North, one of the UKABC’s specialists, told us the following about the challenges of selling into the region.
The main challenge is understanding the region. It is an economy made of 10 distinct export markets. Other challenges are similar to more familiar export destinations such as finding the right partner/distributor/agent, but distance to the markets, time difference and cultural nuances are further considerations.
Exporting to Southeast Asia requires a significant investment of a company’s time. Companies in Southeast Asia prefer to build a strong relationship over several meetings before entering a deal. Dining with potential business partners will form part of any successful business relationship, often around some of the amazing regional cuisine!