Business beyond borders

August 29, 2013 at 14:09

Last month, prominent business executives were quoted in newspaper reports as saying that Filipino firms are ill prepared for the Asean regional economic integration,  which will lead to the creation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.

In fact, one businessman said that integration held more threats than opportunities for many Filipino enterprises-in direct contrast to the multiple promises that the proponents of economic integration talk about.

The promise of larger markets, more product choices, lower prices and more business opportunities are being dwarfed by the bigger concerns of large-scale displacement and cutthroat competition.

The specter of being swallowed whole by larger companies in other Asean countries is putting fear right in the hearts of many businessmen.

These fears notwithstanding, regional economic integration is inevitable and in less than two years, Filipino firms will have to embrace the possibilities that AEC will bring, whether they want these or not.

Clearly, there is much that has to be done to prime Filipino enterprises for AEC. Economists point out that it is essential to strengthen the domestic economy so that it could withstand the competition that will definitely come as trade barriers fall. This, of course, calls for comprehensive programs that touch just about every aspect of business.

In particular, Dr. Benjamin Diokno says strengthening the domestic economy would mean additional investments in infrastructure, reviving the manufacturing sector, and having a tax structure that is at par with Asean member states.

Integration, though, will not only affect the big  picture. In fact, its effects will be so pervasive, touching the way organizations operate and the way people think. Thus, preparations for integration should not only be at the macroeconomic level, but should go to the microeconomic and individual levels as well.

In this time of great change, when there are more questions than answers, the most valuable tool one can accumulate is knowledge. Knowledge enables people and organizations to prepare for the uncertainties that they foresee,  and act to address their deficiencies in response.

It is for this reason that the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) is focusing on the AEC in 2015 through its theme “Business Beyond Borders: Global Perspectives, Domestic Dynamics” at this year’s MAP International CEO Conference. For the past 10 years, the MAP CEO Conferences have brought together the country’s top business executives, and given the wide ranging impact of integration, this year’s Conference will aim to address the questions that are topmost in their minds.

International speakers will lead a series of hard-hitting discussions on the pitfalls and prospects of AEC 2015.  The speakers will answer the following basic questions: How should Filipino companies see the AEC?  What scenarios can arise from economic integration? How can organizations use the AEC as an opportunity for growth and collaboration?

To give everyone a comprehensive understanding of the AEC, we have invited Indonesia-based H.E. Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General, Asean, to provide an overview with his talk entitled “Business beyond Borders: The AEC Experience.”

Taking a regional perspective, Jayant Menon, Lead Economist of Office of Regional Economic Integration of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), will speak on “The World and a Borderless Asean: The REGIONAL Perspective.”

The global view will also be discussed in the talk”The World and a Borderless ASEAN: The Global Perspective” by  France-based Thierry Apoteker, CEO and Chief Economist, TAC Applied Economic and Financial Research.

To illustrate the AEC’s possible impacts on specific sectors, in particular the health industry, Malaysia-based Dato’ Dr. Jacob Thomas, President of Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia and President of Asian Hospitals Federation, will talk on “The Internationalization of Healthcare: HR Mobility and Talent Retention.”

The challenges of integration calls for leaders to take their companies and industries past the uncertainties and parlay threats into opportunities. Recognizing this, Canada-based Doug Keeley, Founder and Global CEO of The Mark of a Leader, will deliver an Inspirational Message on “Leadership Challenges in the ASEAN Economic Community.”

Through the various presentations, attendees can learn from the global experiences of other companies to find new areas for innovation and explore possibilities for cross-border collaboration.

The CEO Conference serves as a culminating activity of The MAP AEC Exchange, the ASEAN Integration Committee’s series of fora on the implications of the regional economic integration on Philippine businesses.  The conference discussions will be guided by the results of the five AEC Exchange Fora held earlier as a rich source of local commentary and insight on AEC, with the end goal of moving forward with a shared purpose and vision for success in ASEAN.

The AEC Exchange was born out of the Memorandum of Agreement between the MAP and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council of the Philippines to address the business community’s need for information on the AEC.  In these fora, members of the business community have shared their key insights on what has to be done in the following areas: policy pronouncements to ensure good AEC citizenship; public-private sector cooperation; regional competition;  education and human capital, among others.

Personally, I believe that companies, regardless of size, can prepare for integration using what I call the “ABC to AEC” approach.  A stands for “audit,” which underscores the need for companies to audit their environment and themselves to understand threats and opportunities locally and in neighboring countries. The goal of the audit is to provide inputs that can feed into their business mapping.  B is about “building your brand” which is so essential as the market widens and deepens with integration.  And finally, C is about communication which is so essential for companies to connect with relevant stakeholders in a larger, more dynamic marketplace.

Indeed, there are a variety of ideas worth exploring on how Filipino companies and professionals should face the AEC, and I look forward to hearing more conversations on how we should go forward during the CEO Conference. In the remaining months, I hope that these discussions would lead to innovations that could make a difference for us Filipinos in an economically integrated region by 2015.


Source: Junie del Mundo, Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 18th, 2013

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