The countries in Southeast Asia run world economy. But despite this, Sweden’s export to the region decreases. This trend has to stop, the Swedish ambassadors in Southeast Asia writes.
These days we visit six Swedish ambassadors from Southeast Asia, Lund, Gothenburg and Stockholm to attract more Swedish companies to invest in the world’s most dynamic region.
The basis of our Swedish society builds upon Swedish export. Sweden has for a very long time been a successful exporting country and the ambition of the political decision-makers remains high. However, we live in a changing world where the wheels roll faster. For Sweden to be able to maintain its position, it requires that we speed up and are ready to meet new needs on the market.
Most of the Swedish export today happens in Europe. According to the Board of Trade, Europe receive around 75 percent of Swedish export and greatest are Norway with around eleven percent, closely followed by Germany with ten.
However, in Southeast Asia the situation is reversed. With almost 660 million inhabitants and an expected growth of around five percent every year, the region is looking into a very exciting future. Despite this, Swedish export to Southeast Asia only counts for around two percent. This trend has to stop.
As Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Industry Minister Mikael Damberg recently expressed in an article (DN 5/2), we need more companies who dare to make investments in this region. It is not enough that most of our major established global companies are investing. We also need to attract small and medium-sized companies to take the leap over to Southeast Asia. The potential is huge but of course it is not without challenges. To be successful in this region, it requires perseverance and patience. A company that believes it is possible to recoup an investment in one year are often too optimistic.
On the other hand, companies who have patience and ability to build up relations will be able to succeed. In many countries there are challenges with corruption, and that weakens the CSR transcendently, but exactly therefore it is important that Sweden shows business presence. Many of the large multinational Swedish companies have successfully been established in Southeast Asia for decades and it has also improved the business environment, transparency and working conditions. Through Swedish entrepreneurship, we can contribute to a positive development.
Not just China and India
In the end of 2015, the ASEAN inner market AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) will be in force. This creates improved conditions for ASEAN countries to generate growth. ASEAN countries have a combined GDP that is 25 percent larger than that of India, has more than 600 million consumers and is the world’s fourth largest exporter. Asia is not just China and India, but so much more. In Southeast Asia, there is significant capital with a very well-functioning financial market in Singapore. The big economies of Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia have a growing middle class and all the ASEAN countries are making huge investments in infrastructure. Where is the Swedish construction industry?
We welcome the Government’s future export strategy and we hope that more Swedish companies will take necessary decisions, so that Sweden will not continue losing global market share. Sweden has a strong brand. We stand for quality, innovation, and a transparent and honest business.
Let us together meet the challenge of increasing Swedish export. We will together with Business Sweden, Swedish Export Credit Corporation and the Export Credits Guarantee Board do our best to welcome and support the brave Swedish companies. We are wanted in Southeast Asia, let us not miss the chance!
Johanna Brismar Skoog, Ambassador in Indonesia
Bengt G. Carlsson, Ambassador in Malaysia
Anna Maj Hultgård, Ambassador in Cambodia
Håkan Jevrell, Ambassador in Singapore
Klas Molin, Ambassador in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and the Philippines.
Camilla Mellander, Ambassador in Vietnam