Over the past two years, ASEAN markets have become more important for 58 percent of respondents of a poll of 588 senior executives representing US companies in all 10 ASEAN countries.

The ASEAN Business Outlook Survey, the 13th of its kind, was conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (AmCham Singapore ) from May 5 to June 5.

According to the survey results, released in Singapore on August 28, 74 percent reported that their companies’ level of trade and investment in ASEAN has increased over the past two years, and 89 percent of respondents expect it to rise over the next five years.

Region-wide, respondents reported that Indonesia , Vietnam and Myanmar are the priority markets for future business expansion, accounting for 41 percent, 37 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

The profit outlook is solid with 63 percent of the executives expecting profit increases this year, and 81 per cent next year. As many as 53 percent of the respondents expect their companies’ workforce to expand this year, while only 5 percent hope for decreases.

The vast majority (81 per cent) of surveyed business executives in all the 10 ASEAN countries believe that ASEAN integration is important in helping their companies do business in the region.

The survey also revealed that US companies take advantage of regional economic integration efforts, including ASEAN’s free trade agreements (FTAs) with Australia and New Zealand , China , India , Japan, and the Republic of Korea.

Nearly half (49 percent) reported that they use the FTAs to export goods from ASEAN to China . American companies’ use of the other FTAs ranges between 43-47 percent.

As many as 98 percent of respondents in the region said that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will either help or have a neutral effect on their companies’ trade and investment in the region.

Meanwhile, 51 percent thought that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement will help their companies’ trade and investment with Indonesia , Malaysia , Singapore , and Vietnam - the four ASEAN members participating in TPP negotiations.

“This survey substantiates what ASEAN-based executives of US companies witness every day - ASEAN is a dynamic and forward-looking region with enormous growth potential, energetic populations, and exciting prospects for regional integration,” said AmCham Singapore Chairman James Andrade.

However, it also found substantial concerns to companies’ growth in the region, including corruption, burdensome laws and regulations, lack of transparency, poor quality of infrastructure, and the difficulty in moving products through customs in some countries.-VNA