ASEAN Investment Report 2015: Infrastructure Investment and Connectivity


FDI development and corporate investment strategies

FDI flows to ASEAN rose for the third consecutive year, from $117.7 billion in 2013 to $136.2 billion in 2014, despite a 16% decline in global flows (figure 1). This level exceeded inflows to China for the first time since 1993, making ASEAN the largest recipient of FDI in the developing world. Most Member States witnessed an increase in FDI flows last year.

A number of key developments contributed to the further annual rise in FDI. Foreign MNEs and other ASEAN companies continued to expand their operations in the region in a range of industries for a number of various reasons. Regional expansion strategies of foreign and ASEAN companies remain a key aspect of the region’s investment landscape in 2014 and 2015. FDI in services increased significantly last year. The region’s investment environment also improved further as more regional and national measures favourable to FDI were introduced or announced. Behind these motives are strong regional economic fundamentals such as cost advantages and market factors, including regional integration, attracting investment and influencing corporate strategy in ASEAN. The major sources of investment in 2014 remained largely the same as in 2013, with two- thirds of FDI continuing to come from the top five investment source regions and economies, namely the European Union (EU), intra-ASEAN and Japan, the United States as well as Hong Kong (China).

The rise in FDI in 2014 was also driven by an increase in intraregional investment and strong FDI flows from a majority of ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners. They include Australia, China, the EU, the Republic of Korea and the United States. However, FDI flows from Japan to the region plummeted by 39%, to $13.4 billion, reflecting the general downward global FDI trend of Japanese investment in 2014. Notwithstanding the FDI decline, Japan remained the largest investor in manufacturing activities in the region last year. The EU was the largest investor as a whole, followed by ASEAN. Increased FDI from France, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom contributed to the rise in the EU’s investment.

Intra-ASEAN investment rose by 26%, from $19.4 billion in 2013 to $24.4 billion in 2014 – accounting for 18% of total inflows into the region (figure 2). This upward intraregional investment trend suggests a growing interest of ASEAN companies in establishing a stronger regional presence, in particular in recent years, in light of emerging opportunities and the influence of the impending ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015.

Manufacturing FDI declined to $22.2 billion from $33.3 billion in 2013 but this was compensated for by a strong surge in FDI in finance, from $28.3 billion in 2013 to $43.1 billion. FDI in agriculture also rose from $2.3 billion to $4.5 billion, while investment in the extractive industries declined from $8.0 billion to $7.3 billion. FDI from the EU and the United States dominated in finance, while investments by ASEAN companies were to the fore in the primary sector (agriculture and mining activities) and real estate.

A notable aspect of the changing landscape of FDI in ASEAN is the growing frequency of transfers of labour-intensive manufacturing activities from higher-cost locations in other Asian economies and within ASEAN to the CLMV (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam) countries, as well as other ASEAN Member States such as Indonesia. This development is strengthening further regional production networks and regional value chains - boosting connectivity between CLMV countries and the other ASEAN Member States as production from the former is supplied to affiliates or customers based in the latter. This industrial connectivity is contributing to the development of supporting industries and increasing the region’s manufacturing competitiveness, which draws on the complementary locational advantages increasingly being tapped by multinational enterprises (MNEs) and ASEAN companies. Furthermore, the rise in regional economic activities by MNEs and companies from the other ASEAN Member States is helping bridge the development divide in the region through investment.

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