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Survey: APEC business leaders’ confidence hits three year high despite trade frictions

Confidence in revenue growth is at its highest level for three years among business leaders in 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation’s (APEC) economies, said PwC on Wednesday.

PwC surveyed more than 1,400 business leaders with responsibility in each of the 21 APEC economies in the run up to the annual APEC CEO Summit in Vietnam.

According to the results, 37% of APEC CEOs are very confident of revenue growth during the next 12 months, up from 28% in 2016 despite trade policy uncertainty and related political tensions in many of the economies that make up APEC.

In the next year, a net 50% of businesses will increase their global investments—including those outside the APEC region), up from 43% last year, as APEC businesses increase their foothold and influence on the global economy.

In addition, 71% of those surveyed who are raising investment will direct those increases into APEC economies in 2018 while 63% of all APEC CEOs expect their broader global footprint to expand over the next three years.

The biggest domestic investment winners

The biggest domestic investment winners will be Vietnam, Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. Vietnam, China, Indonesia, the US and Thailand are the top APEC targets for business leaders’ overseas investment. 89% of Malaysian CEOs and 86% of Vietnam CEOs expect to expand globally.

“ASEAN’s strong and consistent GDP growth, averaging 5.2% per year since 2000, and its vast working age population provide solid foundations for further expansion,” said  Sridharan Nair, Territory Senior Partner for PwC Malaysia/Vietnam. “To pursue sustainable growth internationally, businesses need to be grounded in trust to earn the confidence of their stakeholders; from the way they hire their talents, their approach to supplier selection, to how they market their products at home and abroad,”

Workforce automation

With confidence increasing, perceptions of the opportunities for innovation-driven growth have improved, but business leaders’ concern about their ability to secure the right skills to compete globally is increasing, PwC said.

Automation is a key recurring theme in strategies for building the workforce of the future, with 58% automating certain functions, 40% investing in machine learning and emerging technologies, and 41% identifying workers are skilled at using new automation tools, survey results indicate.

“APEC economies could be a test bed for the integration of automation with the workforce of tomorrow. Businesses know best what skills they need, and now public and private sectors need to work together to create practical ways to train, develop and access those skills,” said Raymund Chao, PwC Asia Pacific Chairman.

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