Global perspectives and domestic dynamics

Map Insights
Junie Del Mundo

Posted on October 15, 2013

GLOBAL perspectives and domestic dynamics -- these are two imperatives that we have to face as we race towards 2015, when the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) comes into being. As AEC takes shape and form each passing day, conversations are shifting from how it would affect us, to what we should do in order to survive in the new business environment.

For now, the overriding sentiment among businesses and professionals is one of uncertainty. As with any new undertaking, and due to the lack of information about it, AEC evokes fears and anxiety. To date, it is still shrouded in mystery and misperceptions.

Recognizing the yawning information gap, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) established the MAP-AEC Exchange to serve as a platform for discussion and to guide conversations on the topic. Over the past few months, the AEC Exchange has served as a platform for various discussions on those issues that matter the most to business -- the impact of tariff reduction, as well as its impact on sectors such as education, banking and tourism. These discussions culminated with the 11th MAP CEO International Conference 2013, where experts weighed in with their views on what economic integration means.

Their views complemented those that had been earlier raised at the MAP AEC Exchange, in particular the need to strengthen domestic businesses and infrastructure, develop policies and institutions, and strengthen mechanisms for greater cooperation between the public and private sectors. They also shared their optimism and belief in the opportunities that economic integration will unlock, while underscoring the role of efficiency, productivity, and innovation in all this.

H.E. Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General of the ASEAN, pointed out that the AEC’s ability to achieve its vision depends on timeliness and quality of implementation. This once again underscores the need for concentrated action, communication at the national and regional levels, and for businesses to participate on the policy and programs discussion.

Risks related to economic integration were acknowledged by Jayant Menon, Lead Economist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). He noted that implementation challenges will most likely be in the form of changing domestic laws and policies, as countries grapple with various concerns and move at different paces. Dr. Thierry Apoteker, CEO and Chief Economist of TAC Applied Economic and Financial Research, added that there would have to be a mechanism to address issues beyond trade. He also called on ASEAN to avoid failure by not setting unrealistic goals and to learn from the lessons of the EU, instead of merely replicating it.

Technology will help define the way business will be done, said Alvin Catalan, Director for Sales of SAP in the Philippines, who illustrated how networked commerce will benefit enterprises in the AEC. Certainly, the effects of integration will vary among the industries. To illustrate, Dr. Jacob Thomas, President of the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia, pointed out the challenges and opportunities in health care and shared strategies to manage health care domestically, regionally and globally.

Given the complexity and magnitude of the work to be done in the new AEC, Doug Keeley, Founder and Global CEO of The Mark of a Leader, underscored the role of leadership. Leadership, he says, is about embracing change, the fabric of the universe. He added that leaders dictate the speed of the game, and this will be true in the business paradigm of the AEC.

I couldn’t agree more. As the Philippines moves into the new business environment, it will have to think of ways to once more define its competitive edge, and to strengthen it while being aware of the events that are unfolding simultaneously in the regional and global markets. The Philippine country brand -- that which will make our businesses and our people stand out in the new global paradigm -- resides in our competitive advantage. In the days ahead, we will have to focus on how to leverage the various elements that create our country brand, so that it may carry us through the myriad opportunities in this new economic arena.

(The author is the Chair of the 11th MAP International CEO Conference 2013 which featured the ASEAN Economic Integration and its implications on the Philippines. He is the Chair and CEO of EON The Stakeholder Relations Firm, a public relations and communication consultancy firm representing some of the top brands and companies in the country. Send feedback to map@globelines.com.ph and junie@eon.com.ph. For previous articles, visit map.org.ph.)