A delegation of 320 Victorian businesses made up mainly of small and medium-size businesses landed in Malaysia yesterday for the launch of the largest ever trade mission to the region.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine is leading the trade mission, which is made up of 80% SMEs, 40% of which do not have a presence in south-east Asia.
The trade mission starts in Malaysia and will include visits to Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
SMEs represented include electrical harness manufacturer AME Systems from Ararat and baby food producer Burra Foods from Korumburra.
Delivering his State of the State address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia in Melbourne on Friday, Napthine told the audience small businesses needs to look to south-east Asia for opportunities at this time of “massive change”.
“It’s absolutely certain over the next century that Asia will drive the economy and the world,” he says.
“The big leaders from this change will be the states and countries that are flexible and adaptable, outward-looking, Asia-literate, and that welcome investment, that have strong knowledge industries like education, medical research and professional services, and those areas that are able to grow the food, the fibre, and the high-value manufacturing that is demanded by these very fast-growing nations.”
Napthine says the question of “Why Asia?” is answered when you look at estimates over the next 15 years of 1.8 billion people entering the world’s “consuming class”, and 75% of those people will come from Asia.
South-east Asia is set to make up one of the fastest-growing regions within Asia, according to Napthine, as with 600 million people in the region it’s growing faster than India and faster than the global average in population
Napthine also used the CEDA address to unveil a political and business taskforce, which he will chair, to develop a strategy that places Victoria’s food and agriculture industries as Asia’s food bowl.
He describes the food and agriculture industry as one of his personal “pet projects” and an area with a lot of opportunity in south-east Asia.