PwC’s 2017 APEC CEO Survey: The ASEAN Report

This report reflects the survey results gathered across the seven ASEAN economies which are part of the APEC economic forum: Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

"Through technology, the world is becoming more interconnected and ASEAN companies are increasingly experiencing the opportunities as well as the rising competition that such connectedness bring."

SAM Kok Weng, Asia Pacific Markets Leader, PwC

A world in transition

This year’s responses reveal optimistic business outlook across ASEAN – Vietnam and Indonesia are among APEC business leaders’ top investment destinations and nearly half of the business leaders in the Philippines (49%) are very confident in their revenue growth prospects in the coming year. Meanwhile, Singapore stands out as the region’s most outward oriented economy.

As an upcoming economic powerhouse, ASEAN is a major manufacturing and services hub in Asia Pacific, which also houses one of the world’s fastest growing consumer markets. A comparable percentage of ASEAN business leaders share similar sentiments to their APEC counterparts in these areas:

  • Progress towards free trade across the Asia Pacific region
  • Confidence and outlook in business growth
  • Increased barriers encountered in the global trade environment
  • Adoption of new strategies to secure growth in overseas markets
  • Managing digital transitions in the workplace

Where ASEAN results stand out from the crowd

At the same time, the survey findings reveal that the ASEAN responses stand out from the APEC average in the following areas:

Confidence in increasing exports

Across APEC, the outlook on exports is muted. ASEAN, with its lower-than-average scores, recorded a softening confidence in export growth. As ASEAN tends to rely on trade agreements to facilitate export opportunities, the uncertainty surrounding trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) following the US’ withdrawal could have weakened sentiment.

Expansion of global footprint in the next three years

Even in the face of rising trade uncertainty, a higher-than-average percentage of ASEAN business leaders surveyed expect to widen their businesses’ global footprint over the next three years. The results suggest that ASEAN business leaders are more eager than their APEC counterparts to drive expansion into other markets, despite greater investment barriers. Increasing outbound investment will play a critical role in their internationalisation strategy.

Growth strategies in relation to China

ASEAN business leaders continue to eye China as a vast market with exciting business possibilities. They emerged more enthusiastic than their APEC peers in collaborating with partners in China and in building their brand there. The results suggest that ASEAN businesses are more focused on capturing opportunities in China than the rest of APEC as a smaller percentage of ASEAN business leaders surveyed see the need to diversify their businesses beyond the economic giant.

Wholesale training of workforce in ways to use data

A third of business leaders surveyed across APEC are laying the groundwork for the future by investing in the development of a data-driven and analytical workforce. However, findings reveal that the percentage of ASEAN business leaders investing in the wholesale training of their workforce on how to use data falls behind the APEC average. Instead, ASEAN businesses are currently prioritising automation as the key building block in their digital workforce strategy. As the need for data to drive business efficiency increases, so will the priority to bring the workforce up to speed on harnessing the benefits of data.

This ASEAN cut of our APEC CEO Survey 2017-2018 report studies the responses of 445 business leaders surveyed across seven ASEAN economies in comparison to the APEC average in these three key themes:

  • Outlook for business growth
  • An operating model for a fluid trade policy environment
  • Making the workforce of the future

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