The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP, the Minister for Trade and Investment, has launched the joint Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Austrade publication, Why ASEAN and Why Now? Insights for Australian Business at an event hosted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in Melbourne.

Minister Robb spoke about opportunities for Australian business in ASEAN to over 130 representatives from Australian companies, industry groups, universities  and state and federal government agencies with interests in the ASEAN region. ASEAN diplomats in Australia also attended.

The event included a panel discussion on real-world examples of the challenges and opportunities Australian companies face in doing business in ASEAN. The panel included senior representatives from PwC, ANZ and Blackmores. Singapore’s High Commissioner to Canberra, H.E. Mr Burhan Gafoor also provided attendees with valuable perspectives on how ASEAN views its trade and investment relationship with Australia.

Over 11,500 Australian companies export to the ASEAN region. Collective Australia-ASEAN two-way trade surpassed $100 billion in 2014. This is more than the total two-way trade with Australia’s second largest trading partner, Japan.  Australia’s investment relationship with ASEAN is also growing fast – having nearly quadrupled over the past 10 years to $195 billion in 2014.

Why ASEAN and Why Now? is designed to promote the investment and trade opportunities that ASEAN offers for Australian business. It draws on the experience of Australian companies (with case studies of Australian companies successfully doing business with ASEAN) and Australia’s network of diplomatic and trade missions operating in ASEAN. The publication also encourages Australian companies to start to think of ASEAN as a single region, particularly with the declaration of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) at the end of 2015.

Why ASEAN and Why Now? also sets out how Australia’s bilateral and regional free trade agreements with ASEAN provide pathways for Australian business to tap into the AEC and to deepen investment and develop commercial links and markets in ASEAN and beyond. This includes the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and Trans-Pacific Partnership currently under negotiation.