Southeast Asia is our neighbour and vital to our growth and prosperity. Southeast Asia is diverse and complex, accounting for 11 different economies, which all share a vibrancy that can be seen in the region’s young and increasingly urbanised, connected and educated populations.
Southeast Asia’s economic growth trajectory is compelling. Countries across the region have experienced significant economic growth over the last several decades. Home to powerhouses and emerging economies of the 21st century such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, the region’s growth path is set to become stronger and more dynamic. Southeast Asia has a population of more than 630 million people. If the region was a single country, it would already be the fifth-largest economy in the world, with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $US2.5 trillion in 2017. The region continues to outpace global economic growth rates. By 2030, the region is forecast to be the world’s fourth largest economy.
The countries of Southeast Asia have one of the largest combined labour forces in the world. Currently experiencing a demographic dividend – economic growth resulting from the age structure of a country’s population – the region’s working-age population is expected to account for 68 per cent of its total population by 2025.
The region’s shift to urban centres will drive demand for premium goods and innovative services. The United Nations estimates that more than 26 cities in Southeast Asia will have populations of more than 1 million by 2030. The establishment and growth of second and third tier mega-cities in Southeast Asia will require a range of infrastructure, services, connectivity and supply chains.
With Southeast Asia’s number of middle-class households set to quadruple, from 38 million in 2015 to 161 million by 2030, the region is experiencing rapid growth in household wealth. As households’ purchasing power and disposable incomes continue to grow, so will demand for premium agricultural goods, innovative services, international travel, and high-quality education and training and healthcare.
Southeast Asian countries have made some of the most significant advances in technology and the digital economy in the world. In 2017, Southeast Asian countries had over 854 million active mobile phone subscriptions – or over 133 per cent of the region’s population. Increasingly, the region’s digital transformation is determining the way people live and do business.
Opportunities for Victorians looking to do business with Southeast Asia
Education, training & skills
Victoria is already a key education partner for countries in Southeast Asia. In 2017, enrolments from Southeast Asian countries were over 51,000 and accounted for one in five of all international enrolments in Victoria. The region’s demand for high-quality and innovative education will continue to grow in line with the growth of its middle-class. Larger Southeast Asian nations such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia are already actively exploring ways to engage internationally to upskill and educate their workforces.
Victoria’s higher education and VET providers are well-positioned to assist Southeast Asian countries to deliver education and training, both in Victoria and through in-market models. Victoria's education providers are recognised for delivering world-class education services. Opportunities are emerging for providers to expand their export business as Southeast Asia pushes to standardise vocational qualifications across the region.
Key markets include Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Food & fibre
The growing demand for premium agricultural products and processed foods across markets in Southeast Asia presents strong opportunities for Victoria's food and fibre sectors.
Globally recognised as suppliers of high quality, clean, and safe food products, Victoria's food and fibre sectors are well-placed to meet Southeast Asia's growing demand for premium quality meat and dairy products, temperate fruit and nuts, wheat and processed and packaged food items.
Key markets include Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.
With the rise of Southeast Asia’s middle-class, more consumers have the capacity for leisure travel and to travel internationally. \
Victoria’s proximity, coupled with our unique tourism offerings, make us a top destination for Southeast Asian tourists wanting to explore the world. International visitor numbers from Southeast Asia are set to increase over the next ten years, positively impacting on Victoria’s economy. Visitors from Southeast Asia will continue to contribute significantly to the future growth of Victoria’s tourism sector.
Key markets include Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Given the scale and speed of Southeast Asia’s development, there are opportunities for Victorian firms to provide innovative services and products across a range of traditional and emerging sectors, such as infrastructure, digital technology, water, health and medtech, liveability and renewable energy.
Victoria’s strong professional services sector, culture of innovation and research expertise, coupled with Victorian Government investments that have focused on innovation and technology as economic drivers for the state, mean Victorian firms are well-placed to partner with Southeast Asian nations looking for innovation solutions to many of their development needs.
Key markets include: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.
- In 2017-18, Victoria exported A$4 billion in goods to Southeast Asia, accounting for 15 per cent of the State's total goods exports.1
- Southeast Asia is Victoria’s second largest export market after China2
- The Southeast Asian region includes:
- Brunei Darussalam
- East Timor
- In 2013, Singapore accounted for 35 per cent of Australia's business services trade – up from just 22 per cent in 2000.2
- DFAT Pivot Table State by Country and SITC 2005-06 to 2017-18
- DFAT Pivot Table State by Country and SITC 2005-06 to 2017-18
Launched on 11 September 2018, Globally Connected: Victoria’s Southeast Asia Trade and Investment Strategy identifies pathways for trade and export into Southeast Asia’s fast-growing markets.
The Strategy aims to grow bilateral ties, promote Victoria and identify opportunities in the region in education, tourism, agriculture, infrastructure and professional services, ICT and technology, and the health and medical technology sectors. These sectors offer the most prospective opportunities in the region and are well-aligned with Victoria’s industry strengths and capabilities.
Discover how your business can export to Southeast Asia
- The Victorian Government Trade and Investment (VGTI) offices located in Singapore, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur provide tailored market intelligence, local insights and guidance for your export business. Our VGTI offices can also connect you with overseas buyers and industry partners in the Southeast Asia region.
- We're helping exporters tap into food export opportunities in Southeast Asia by supporting a range of activities including:
- the award-winning Now! In Season horticulture promotion
- market research into new fruit varieties
- grass-fed beef promotions
- the Dairy Scholarships Program.
- Asialink Business' Country Starter Packs provides a comprehensive guide to conducting business in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
- Explore an overview of the region and key trends by reading the "Why ASEAN and Why Now?" report.
- The Victorian Government provides support through a range of grants, vouchers and assistance programs.
- The International Chamber House (ICH) in Melbourne's city centre is a business networking hub for international bilateral chambers and business associations. ICH provides its members with access to meeting rooms, including video-conferencing, flexible workspaces, and a function space for international business development events.
- Opportunities exist for Victorian businesses to bid for contracts across a wide range of sectors and markets with the World Bank and Asia Development Bank. Providing financial support to low and middle-income countries for projects focused on development and change, World Bank's contract award decisions are based on criteria other than lowest price, such as quality and sustainability
- Visit our regional insights page to read seasonal updates from our Regional Specialists