Paris (VNA) - French businesses are looking to promote their technology and products in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), aiming to raising France’s competitiveness in a region until now dominated by goods from Japan, the Republic of Korea and China.

The French Senate and Business France, a governmental agency in charge of promoting foreign trade, co-organised a recent workshop on the ASEAN market to this purpose.

Statistics of the French Treasury show ASEAN is France’s second biggest trade partner in Asia, with bilateral trade turnover standing at 31 billion EUR in 2017, up 5.9 percent year on year. France’s exports to ASEAN saw a 3.7 percent increase in 2017 while its imports from the bloc surged 8.1 percent.

France holds an approximately 1.6 percent share of the ASEAN market, which is not high but has stayed stable through the past 10 years. This is a positive sign compared to other markets where France’s shares are declining.

Among ASEAN countries, France’s exports to Thailand went up 33 percent, to Malaysia - 23 percent, to Singapore – 10 percent and to Vietnam – 5.1 percent, which indicated that French products are welcomed in main markets within ASEAN.

ASEAN is also a main destination of French investment, receiving 16 billion EUR in 2017, only after China and Japan.

French Ambassador to Vietnam Bertrand Lortholary was of the opinion that ASEAN has potential to receive more French investment. He said France can secure a good position in the ASEAN region which is experiencing rapid and profound changes.

Sharing her experience in working in the Southeast Asian region, Jacky Deromedi, chair of the France-Southeast Asia Parliamentary Friendship Group, said French businesses are welcomed in the region. She urged French businesses to come to the region, which she said has nothing but advantages and great potential.

Singapore’s Ambassador to France Zainal Arif Mantaha said the stable growth of the middle-income group in the ASEAN, estimated to expand fourfold from now to 2030, will bring great opportunities for French businesses, which have strengths in such fields as services, aviation, luxury goods and food.         

According to Joffrey Célestin-Urbain, deputy director for bilateral affairs at the French Treasury, French investors have advantages in ASEAN in infrastructure and climate change. He noted that demand for infrastructure construction is huge in ASEAN countries, citing estimates of the Asian Development Bank that the region would need 3,150 billion USD in this field during 2016-2030, or over 200 billion USD a year, equal to 5 percent of the region’s combined GDP.

In addition, four countries in the region are among the most vulnerable to climate changes, and they will have to invest around 200 billion USD in adapting to climate change.

Joffrey Célestin-Urbain also pointed to challenges facing ASEAN countries, the first of which is the rising protectionism, as most ASEAN economies have integrated deeply into global production and value chains, especially in the electronics and information-communication technology sectors.

The second risk comes with the slowdown of the Chinese economy, with countries relying on exporting to China being the most affected.

The ASEAN is also easily affected by the world material market, as six ASEAN countries are net exporters of raw materials, which are Indonesia, Myanmar, Brunei, Laos, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Fourthly, the currencies of most ASEAN countries are closely related to the US dollar, so their economies are vulnerable to any change in the US dollar exchange rate.

In the context of a complex period in the world with many concerns about the future of international trade, the French business circle see ASEAN as a region open to international trade and interested in strengthening trade ties with Europe.

The Southeast Asian region’s increasing economic integration, along with good prospects for the investment-trade cooperation between France and ASEAN in general and each ASEAN member country in particular, is contributing to the economic dynamism of France.-VNA