West Australia urged to grasp opportunity in Southeast Asia hinh anh 1Interflour chief executive Greg Harvey. (Photo: farmweekly.com.au)

Sydney (VNA) - The head of a company linking Wheatbelt farmers to a flour and malt production network in Southeast Asia, has urged West Australia (WA) business leaders to step up investment in the region.

Interflour chief executive Greg Harvey said Australia’s investment and engagement with Southeast Asia was “anaemic at best”.

He was speaking at an Asia Insight breakfast in Perth on March 16 where other panellists included Indonesian Consul General Ade Padmo Sarwono, Malaysian Consul General Nazarudin Jaafar and Andrea Gleason, State Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Harvey said he will encourage companies to invest in family-owned enterprises as they are really the fabric of the business community throughout Southeast Asia.

He added that ASEAN has the potential to outstrip China as a manufacturing hub and Australia is not cost competitive in areas like meat and grain processing.

“The reason we decided to build a malt factory in Vietnam is that our costs are 75 percent lower than the supply chains costs out of Australia,” he said. “We wish to participate in growing demand in Southeast Asia and we need to start to see some more investment and transfer of capital into this region to enable us to catch that growth.”

The panellists highlighted the opportunities created by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which came into effect on January 1 this year. AEC is expected to reduce non-tariff barriers to trade and foreign investment across the region.

Those issues will be on the table next month when Perth hosts about 700 officials for the next round of negotiations in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership involving ASEAN and its free-trade agreement partners Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.

The breakfast heard that Southeast Asia attracted only a fraction of Australia’s foreign investment. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed Australian companies had 81 billion USD invested in New Zealand compared to 32 billion USD across Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.-VNA