During the event, BlueNotes spoke to trade ministers from Australia (Steven Ciobo), New Zealand (Todd McClay) and Canada (Chrystia Freeland) to get their thoughts on those relationships.
" Each minister understands the significant opportunities a strengthened and expanded trade relationship with ASEAN."
Anna Green, CEO, ANZ Laos
From those talks, it was clear each minister understands the significant opportunities a strengthened and expanded trade relationship with ASEAN bloc countries would present for their economies.
How these strengthened relationships will take shape and whether they will deliver the tangible economic returns they are being implemented in pursuit of remains to be seen.
Below are the key points I took from the ministers.
ASEAN continues to be viewed as a key growth market for all of Asian geographies. According to McKinsey, with a combined GDP of $US2.5 trillion, the ASEAN region represents the seventh largest economy in the world.
With a population of 600 million people and the third-largest labour force in the world, along with projected year-on-year economic growth of over 5 per cent for the next 50 years, the ASEAN region looks set to become the world’s fourth largest economy by 2050.
The region’s population is young (half under the age of 30 by 2020) and demand far outstrips supply with respect to skilled labour in a market where industries such as manufacturing, retail and telecommunications are taking centre stage.
Ciobo was alive to the possibilities ASEAN presents for Australian business and encouraged them to support the development of human capital in the region.
He said Australian industry was often held up as an example of industry best practice in ASEAN and Australia was therefore in a unique position to capitalise on this - by not only trading but also partnering with ASEAN business to strengthen regional trade ties.
These partnerships prove their worth when it comes to dealing with issues specific to the region, Ciobo said.