Austrade highlights opportunities in South-East Asia

Austrade highlights opportunities in South-East Asia

Austrade has flagged Thailand and Singapore as new areas of opportunity for the Australian ICT sector.

Digital content, wireless, broadband and e-learning have all been highlighted as strengths the local sector can offer the two burgeoning South-East Asian markets.

To raise awareness of this, the government body is holding a national series of seminars aimed at explaining the increased advantage available for Australian companies under the recent Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) and Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreements (SAFTA).

Austrade's Bangkok-based senior trade commissioner, Sean Riley, said Australian organisations had good reason to rethink following the passing of the two FTAs.

"Old FTAs used to be just about lowering tariffs, but these are much broader and include things like e-commerce, government procurement and movement of people," he said.

"It's not the case that Thai or Singaporean companies will now come knocking on the door, but smart operators realise the FTAs give them advantages they didn't have before."

Smaller ICT companies stood to benefit most from the two agreements, Riley said. "Small companies have tended to overlook South-East Asia as they think those countries are either too small a market or are not technologically advanced enough," he said.

"We are trying to use the recent FTAs to shock their perceptions. If small companies are clever there are two markets on their doorsteps which can be serviced for a low cost."

While larger companies had been servicing both markets for some time, Riley said smaller companies had tended to shy away from Thailand in particular due to fears of intellectual property (IP) losses and language barriers.

"The truth is that people who work in the ICT sector there speak very good English and the chances of niche software or applications ending up at a local market are far lower than for something like a Microsoft Office," he said. "There is also incredible enthusiasm for the Thai people to stamp themselves on the world stage and that means investment in ICT."

While Singapore was widely recognised as having the highest ICT spend of any nation, Riley said there would still be opportunities for Australian companies.

"All the indicators in Singapore are on infrastructure," he said. "The moment you move into take up rates or usage the figures drop dramatically, so there are opportunities for creators of content and applications for that infrastructure."

The seminar series - which will end at CeBIT in Sydney on May 24 - will also discuss how Australian companies can protect their IP in the US market.

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