Canada-ASEAN Business outlook survey 2016

Strengthening commercial ties with ASEAN is part of Canada’s plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for the middle class. ASEAN is composed of some of the fastest- growing and most dynamic markets in the Asia-Pacific region, and we are committed to exploring ways to open these markets for Canadians.
— Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of International Trade.

The Canada-ASEAN Business Outlook survey is a collaborative initiative undertaken by the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Canada-ASEAN Business Council (CABC). It was enabled by generous support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada. The ASEAN-based Canadian Chambers of Commerce, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APF), and the Global Affairs Canada Southeast Asia-based personnel also provided exceptional support.

The survey was designed to assess the opportunities, challenges, and general operating conditions facing Canadian businesses and Southeast Asia-based firms with strong Canadian ties in the ten countries of the ASEAN region. Over 170 firms from a range of sizes and sectors responded to the in-depth questionnaire.

The ASEAN region has steadily grown in importance to Canada over the past decade, as underscored by a growth of over 10% per annum in bilateral trade in goods over the past decade. Trade in services, as well as direct provision of services by Canadian firms within the ASEAN region, have similarly grown in importance. 

There is a strong sense of optimism about the ASEAN region among Canadian firms: over 94% report feeling optimistic about future of their business operations. Of those that also conduct business outside of Southeast Asia, 86% expect the importance of the ASEAN region to grow for them relative to other regions over the coming five years. This optimism is backed by generally strong profitability: 75% of respondents report significant or moderate profits during the past year, with only 10% reporting moderate losses. While there is some variation across countries and firm types, these strong performances are well distributed.

 Challenges abound in Southeast Asian markets. Among the most ubiquitous challenges reported by respondents are: inconsistent enforcement of laws and regulations (70%), difficulties of obtaining reliable and cost-efficient skilled labour (70%), corruption (66%), and preferential treatment of local firms (65%). These have a disproportionately strong impact on SMEs.

We encourage you to review the report as it provides an analysis on:

  • Profiles of Canadian businesses in the ASEAN region
  • Opportunities available to those businesses
  • Impact of economic integration initiatives and trade agreements
  • Challenges of operating in the ASEAN region
  • Support structures and other elements of the ASEAN policy environment


Members of the UBC research team

Members of the UBC research team

Release of report at the CABC Forum in Jakarta

Release of report at the CABC Forum in Jakarta

Media coverage of the report here: