Perception of ASEAN Businesses Towards Japan 2022

By CARI ASEAN Research and Advocacy | 8 September 2022
Research Director: Jukhee Hong

On the cusps of ASEAN and Japan celebrating friendship and cooperation of 50 years in 2023, the ASEAN Economic Community, which was announced in 2015, is experiencing a changing economic and political landscape characterised by a VUCA—highly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous—environment. Japan seeks to better sense the sentiments of the ASEAN business community and reassess its partnership strategy in ASEAN to maintain its leading position in the region. CARI ASEAN Research and Advocacy (CARI), with the support from the ASEAN-Japan Business Council (AJBC) and the full support of Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) Singapore and ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC), carried out a mixed-methods survey to understand ASEAN companies’ sentiment towards Japanese businesses and government, better understand their expectations, and further enhance Japan-ASEAN economic cooperation through stronger involvement and collaborations with the private sector.

About the Survey

The aim of the survey was to gather insights on the general trend of trade and investment, business sentiment and perception of Japanese technologies, the competitiveness of Japanese services, the attractiveness, strengths and areas for enhancement as a business partner, as well as its project management capabilities in comparison with other major economies. Both quantitative and qualitative surveys were conducted in parallel in January and February 2022 with representatives from ASEAN’s private sector from all ten ASEAN countries.

Summary of Quantitative Survey Insights

For quantitative data, we conducted a questionnaire-based survey using Survey Monkey and received 570 submissions, though only 459 completed questionnaires were used for this analysis. The questionnaire contained 43 questions.

Here is a summary of insights gathered from the Quantitative Survey:

1. China, Japan and the US are perceived to be the most influential partners in ASEAN’s trade and investment with varying degrees of dominance.
2. Japan’s Industry 4.0 advancements are highly competitive.
3. Japan’s automotive industry will likely remain dominant in the next decade.
4. Japan ranked first in localisation policy, technology transfer, and in being strategic SME partners but it needs to enhance its flexibility.

Summary of Qualitative Survey Insights

To supplement the quantitative survey, we conducted 42 sessions of key informant interviews with 42 senior and top management executives from manufacturing and non-manufacturing companies operating in ASEAN, with and without direct Japanese experience. Each interview session lasted approximately 60 minutes with one dedicated interviewer. The interviews contained 28 questions.

Here is a summary of insights gathered from the Qualitative Survey:

1. Product quality and technical competencies are key partnership criteria.
2. Partnerships experience with Japanese businesses can be enhanced.
3. A mixture of strengths and gaps.
4. Positive view of Japanese businesses but the younger generation needs to preserve Japanese values such as a commitment to long-term relationships.