A recent survey, “Borderless Business: Europe-ASEAN Corridor”, noted the high-potential opportunities for the cross-border growth of trade in this trade corridor, according to Standard Chartered.

  • 88% of European companies focusing on ASEAN expect business growth in the region over the next 12 months
  • the companies surveyed consider Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand the markets that will present the most expansion opportunities in ASEAN.


ASEAN as the fifth largest economy globally offers multiple business and growth opportunities for European corporates especially in the sectors such as infrastructure, manufacturing, renewable energies, pharma, and e-commerce. The market potential is driven by the following factors:

  • Its large and growing consumer market with a population of about 660 million
  • Its increasing connectivity with the world via an expanding network of free trade agreements (FTAs)
  • Its aging population, focus on healthcare affordability and ASEAN governments pushing for regulatory policies to boost investment in the pharmaceutical sector
  • ASEAN governments activity supporting renewable or clean energy initiatives, investments in smart cities, transport and logistics infrastructure and digitisation
  • Geographical proximity to China, openness to foreign investment and deep technological expertise.

Robert Newell

Robert Newell, Managing Director, Global Corporates, Europe, said:

“The ASEAN markets continue to offer huge opportunity for European companies, both for those looking to diversify and expand their investment and trade activities, and those who are well aware of the deep technological expertise and significant consumer base across the markets. Our clients are thinking about how their businesses can go deeper and leverage the strengths of the ASEAN community to broaden their activities, potentially including opportunities in other markets across the region which they may not already be active in. Given our unique footprint at Standard Chartered, we have the expertise to support our clients across all ASEAN markets, to ultimately help them tap into those potential opportunities and strive for continued growth.”

Hand shake

Research findings

Access to the large and growing ASEAN consumer market (68%), access to a global market from ASEAN enabled by Free Trade Agreements (50%), diversification of production footprint (48%) and presence of a mature and reliable supplier base (48%) were regarded as the most important drivers for expansion into the region by senior executives of the surveyed European companies. In addition, the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is also expected to attract more investments into the region, with 65 per cent of respondents planning to increase investments over the next 3-5 years.

In terms of target markets within ASEAN, 60 per cent of survey respondents are focusing on expanding in Vietnam to capture sales and production opportunities, followed by Malaysia (53%) and Thailand (48%). Among the European corporates keen to tap Singapore for expansion opportunities, 77% expect to leverage the city-state as a regional headquarters for their sales & marketing and corporate functions as they look to expand across ASEAN.

Besides the opportunities, companies also recognise some of the risks that they need to consider within the region. The top three identified risks are the:

  • geopolitical uncertainty and trade conflicts (93%),
  • COVID-19 pandemic or other health crises (58%)
  • slow revival of the economy and the drop in consumer spending (50%).

Furthermore, respondents also identified that understanding regional regulations, payment methods and infrastructure (75%), adapting their business model to industry practices and conditions within ASEAN (65%), and building relationships with suppliers and adapting supply chain logistics (58%) are the most significant challenges in the next 6 to12 months.

To drive resilient and rebalanced growth in ASEAN and mitigate these risks and challenges, a majority of the survey respondents consider entering new partnerships / joint ventures to increase market presence (85%) as the most important area for their companies to focus on. To support their growth, these companies say they are seeking banking partners with foreign exchange hedging and comprehensive multi-currency settlement services (55%), comprehensive cross-border network and understanding of the local markets (55%), as well as strong cash management capabilities (48%) and advisory services such as financial advisory and Environmental, Social, and Governance rating (48%).

Rino Donosepoetro

Rino Donosepoetro, Vice Chairman, ASEAN & President Commissioner Indonesia, Standard Chartered, said:

“Europe and ASEAN enjoy very strong economic ties. The region is the European Union’s (EU) third largest trading partner outside Europe with close to €190 billion of trade in goods in 2020; and the EU is ASEAN’s third largest trading partner, accounting for more than 10% of ASEAN trade. As ASEAN emerges as a global economic powerhouse, it presents unparalleled opportunities for European companies. That is why we are committed to supporting European businesses’ entry into ASEAN’s thriving sectors, from infrastructure and renewable energy to e-commerce. As the only international financial institution with a presence in all ASEAN markets, we have the right set of local knowledge and extensive experience to help our European clients better leverage the ASEAN opportunity that will help define their future.”

Standard Chartered launched the second edition of Borderless Business series for 2021. Download the Standard Chartered “Borderless Business: Europe-ASEAN Corridor” report here: www.sc.com/en/borderless.