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Business must lift game engaging with Asia

Australian exports to the Asia-Pacific region have boomed over the past five years, but business leaders are being urged to do more to ensure the success continues.

Less than one in 10 board members and senior executives at Australia’s 200 largest public companies are considered “Asia capable”.

A two-year study led by Asialink Business has also found most companies operating in Asia only have a limited external relations presence in the region.

Australian exports to the Asia-Pacific have grown 8.5 per cent per year over the past five years.

The region now represents the largest share of foreign revenues generated by Australia’s major companies at 42 per cent, up from 35 per cent in 2014.

The report found internationally diversified companies created more value for shareholders that those with a domestic focus.

The study, produced in partnership with various industry groups, comes at a critical time for the global economy as it battles the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic reminds us there is no room for complacency and we must remain committed to deepening our engagement with the markets of our region,” Myer Family Investments chair Sid Myer said.

However, the report has shown there is much work to do.

An analysis of 1705 senior executives and board members found just seven per cent qualify as “Asia capable” with a score greater than 50 per cent, while the average score was a paltry 13.6 per cent.

“The results indicate that the Asia capability in our senior leadership teams remain low,” Australian Institute of Company Directors chief executive Angus Armour said.

“Coordinated, long-term efforts to address constraints and highlight growth opportunities for business leaders will be required to shift the thinking of corporate Australia and increase engagement with Asia.”

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