There is no doubt that the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, with its huge population and rapid economic development, is the most important market for the global chemicals industry. But even after taking India and China’s multi-billion populations out of the mix, one is left with a slice of great significance: The Southeast Asia (SEA) region, home to 600 million people spread across 11 countries, and with an aggregate economy growing faster than most others over the last 10 years.
However, this grand SEA population, the fourth largest trade bloc in the world after China, India, and Europe, is also one of the most diverse – the idiosyncrasies of language, culture, religion, geography, politics, and economy leaving the region fragmented and struggling to present itself as one. Broken up into individual countries, the region diminishes its global significance, as well as its collective force to attract investment.
Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and The Philippines are all competing for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the chemicals sector. The region would become more competitive to international investors if it learned to act more as one – for instance, by developing upstream-to-downstream regional value chains and by focusing on complementary differentiating points, rather than competing ones. Investments in any ASEAN nation can benefit the entire region if these are guided to an equal extent by consid- erations of differentiation and integration. This would lead to the development of a complete and self-sustaining regional ecosystem.