SINGAPORE -- Two leading American business groups Tuesday said US firms operating in ASEAN countries are skeptical the regional bloc can meet a 2015 deadline to establish a single market.
ASEAN, a region of 600 million people, wants to establish a common market and manufacturing base so that it can better compete as a group with giant neighbors such as China and India in terms of trade and investments.
The 10-member association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has set 2015 as the target for creating a single regional economic market known as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).The group comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
While it has made strides in bringing down tariff barriers to trade in goods, services and investments, analysts have said the problem of creating a single market lies in removing non-tariff hurdles.
In a survey of 475 senior U.S. business executives from the region -- jointly conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – 52% said they "do not think that the AEC's goals will be realized by 2015."
Of those who doubt ASEAN will reach its deadline, nearly 60% "think that ASEAN will not reach AEC's goals until 2020 or later."
Only 23% of all executives questioned believe that ASEAN will meet its 2015 goal, the poll showed.
Despite their skepticism, the survey showed that U.S .companies are optimistic about overall business prospects in the region. The firms said their level of trade and investment in ASEAN rose over the past two years and expect this figure to climb over the next five years.
Indonesia was named the most attractive country for new business expansion, followed by Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.
Meanwhile the Philippines showed the biggest improvement in its business environment between 2008 and 2013, the survey said.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013