Full-time MBA student Ha Le, class of 2020, writes about the Distinguished Speakers Series event “Does ASEAN matter to the US,” held on October 18, 2018, at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.
The Center for Global Business (CGB) at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business welcomed Director of the ASEAN Studies Center at American University, Pek Koon Heng-Blackburn and Vice President-Policy at the US-ASEAN Business Council, Marc Mealy on campus to discuss whether the ASEAN region still matters for the US. Kislaya Prasad, academic director of the Center for Global Business, moderated the panel discussion. This is the second Distinguished Speakers Series in International Business event this fall.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) consists of ten member countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. ASEAN has the world’s third largest population and sixth largest economy with a GDP of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars and GDP growth of 6.2%. "Total US direct investment in ASEAN stands at $274 billion, nearly three times more than China and more than China, India, Japan & South Korea combined”, said Heng-Blackburn.
Over his time at the US-ASEAN Business Council, Mealy has observed the rapid change in the way of doing business in the region. He shared with the students that “foreign direct investment has increased not because it is cheaper to do business here, but because it is where the growth is.” Mealy indicated multiple reasons of why ASEAN presents a unique value proposition to attract foreign investment: (1) ASEAN has a large, young workforce that will drive economic growth and expand the customer base, (2) rural-urban migration trends will increase demand for products and services and, (3) the central location and political stability.
"In spite of their differences, the common objective among the countries is to make ASEAN conflict-free and safe to attract foreign investment,” said Heng-Blackburn. The ASEAN community has worked around social security, economic, and socio-cultural pillars to achieve this goal. "There is a cohesiveness in the region with freer movement of people and skills, connecting the social and economic pillars,” mentioned Mealy, and went on to give an example of the rise of AirAsia, a low-cost airline in the region.
When asked about China’s growing influence, Mealy told the audience that “ASEAN wants balance. It is in ASEAN’s interest. Not only does ASEAN matter for the US but the US also matters for ASEAN.” He believed the recent US policy changes including the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the US-China tariff war has affected both the ASEAN community and US companies doing business abroad. On the other hand, Heng-Blackburn argued that there is no fundamental change in alignment of interests between ASEAN and the US since counterterrorism is still high in the Trump agenda. Listen to the entire event.
The Distinguished Speakers Series (DSS) presents the latest trends in international business and provokes conversation among undergraduate and graduate students, policy experts, and business executives alike. The DSS is supported by the Robert H. Smith School of Business Center for International Business Education (CIBE), a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Education to foster international understanding and promote the ability for U.S. businesses to compete globally, and in particular, emerging markets.
Join CGB for our next DSS, “Global Competencies for the 21st Century Workplace” on Thursday, November 15, 2018.