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What is Austcham ASEAN’s impact on business in the region?

CEO of dwp, Brenton Mauriello has another important role. He was recently elected President of Austcham ASEAN. We ask him what his ‘other’ role involves, why it matters to clients of dwp as well as everyone living, working and doing business in ASEAN countries.

ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations, was formed in Bangkok in 1967. A European Union type common market that was established by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand to promote economic growth, social progress, cultural development and promote peace and security in Southeast Asia.

Brenton was previously President of Austcham Thailand. In his new role as President of Austcham ASEAN, he represents nine chambers and business councils throughout South East Asia. He explains: “The presidency of Austcham ASEAN tracks the presidency of ASEAN proper, which rotates annually in alphabetical order. Each year ASEAN holds a summit hosted by one of its members. Currently, that is Thailand. Next year it will be Vietnam.” While the roles and geography change; continuity is maintained in following years. “Certainly from Australia’s perspective consistency is very important to ensure that the business voice – not just the government voice – is heard.”

In 2008, ASEAN approved a new charter, which gave the organization legal status. The community is now working towards free movement of goods and services, investment and capital, as well as skilled labour. To create the common standards in agriculture, financial services, intellectual property rights and consumer protections that are necessary to attract foreign investment and promote growth in the 10 countries south of China.

Brenton explains: “Austcham ASEAN matters to different people in different ways. The members are Chambers, not individuals. We try to bring value to the Chambers and, in turn, to the members of the Chambers by interacting with governments, trade organisations and investment corporations. To raise awareness of the inhibitors to free trade and growth and investment. Also to make suggestions about what could work well. This role represents the voice of Australian business or ASEAN businesses that are interested in investing in Australia.”

Mauriello explains: “For clients of dwp; a Thai company with Australian roots, there are obvious benefits. The liberalisation of trade, integration of capital markets and standardisation of legal and regulatory frameworks affects everyone. For dwp’s clients, it is important because it allows the free flow of investment. External investors have much easier access to the internal market, which in turn promotes local growth. It also allows ‘local’ investors to seek alternative investments outside their home markets. It is a win-win that will make business in general easier across ASEAN.”

So, realistically how effective can Austcham ASEAN really be? Brenton says: “It’s a little bit different to my role as the President of Austcham when I was really in the trenches. ASEAN is a bit slower. But I’m of the opinion if you’re not in the game; you can’t win the game. So we want to make sure that business has a voice and that voice is coordinated and represents business interests. To work to bring about the conclusions we all seek”.

Approximately 80% of Australia’s GDP is small to medium size service-based businesses. Currently, there are a lot of restrictions. Austcham ASEAN represents these companies to ensure that they can provide services across borders. Mauriello says: “dwp, for example, is a service based company. We need to hire talent from abroad: engineers, accountants and designers. If qualifications are not recognised, it makes it harder for us to hire the best.”

“Thailand’s tight labour market is down to decades of growth. However, there is a need for medium and long-term capacity building for the skills, processes, tools, and systems to be put in place that will continue to drive meaningful business results. Conflicting standards, health and safety and local regulations impact the ease with which business can be conducted as an open community. I understand why regulations are in place but I think there is a middle way. The restrictions can be alleviated so the most talented people can bring their wealth of knowledge to Asia.” ASEAN believes the free movement of people will benefit member countries immeasurably by allowing the business community to meet their needs as they seek further growth. “Access to a growing and dynamic talent pool is key,” Brenton says.

There are pressures for ASEAN and the countries that make up ASEAN to look again at the way they work together and how they work internationally. To realise that standardisation is in their best interests. Brenton explains: “For me, it is a labour of love. It takes time and energy but I am motivated by the idea of service and giving back. I hope I am making an impact and a difference. I’ve been very fortunate in that dwp has been successful… and I’m fortunate that Austcham ASEAN interests me and benefits our clients and the wider business community. I’m happy and excited about the potential of this role.”  

 

For more information on Brenton’s role with ASEAN or dwp, please contact him at brenton.m@dwp.com 

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