Confidence is at its highest level for three years among business leaders in 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation’s (APEC) economies, according to PwC’s 2017 APEC CEO Survey which was launched in Ireland with an event at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.
According to the report, 37% of APEC CEOs are very confident of revenue growth during the next 12 months, up from 28% in 2016. This is in spite of trade policy uncertainty and related political tensions in many of the economies that make up APEC.
PwC surveyed over 1,400 business leaders with responsibility in each of the 21 APEC economies in the run up to the annual APEC CEO Summit which is this year being held in Vietnam.
"APEC business leaders’ confidence suggests they are not waiting for the fog of uncertainty to clear to push ahead with investment plans."
Speaking at the Global Asia Matters Business Summit in Dublin, PwC Ireland Head of Tax Joe Tynan said: “APEC business leaders’ confidence suggests they are not waiting for the fog of uncertainty to clear to push ahead with investment plans. In the short term, this will drive momentum for APEC, increasing its global influence and supporting deals activity with 71% of CEOs expecting to rely more on business partnerships/joint ventures in the future. This is good news for Ireland as APEC business leaders are looking increasingly for opportunities outside of their region."
In the next year, a net 50% of businesses surveyed will increase their global investments, including those outside the APEC region, up from 43% last year, as APEC businesses increase their foothold and influence on the global economy.
71% of those surveyed who are raising investment will direct those increases into APEC economies in 2018, and 63% of all APEC CEOs expect their broader global footprint to expand over the next three years.
Joe Tynan continued: “The survey is encouraging in that it highlights Asia Pacific CEOs' appetite for global investment and bilateral trade. Having developed as a regional hub for EU/US trade, Ireland can become a global trading hub and a gateway from Asia to the EU and the US.
“With a population of in excess of 4.4 billion, Asia provides great opportunities for Ireland to grow its current exports, which currently stand at 11% of our total exports. In a post-Brexit world, Ireland can also provide direct access for Asian companies to an EU market of over 500 million consumers.
"The EU respects China's World Trade Organisation status and with several EU/Asian trade agreements already in place, Ireland is perfectly located as a global hub for Asia to Europe and the US."
"Ireland has the potentail to enhance its status as a global trading hub for a number of reasons. We have access to a broad range of trade agreements. We have a relatively low corporate tax rate of 12.5%, with a competitive R&D regime and double tax agreements allowing companies to retain and repatriate profits.
"We also have the track record of working with international companies, with a highly skilled workforce and access to skilled labour from an EU labour pool. In addition, technology, financial services and pharma are amongst Ireland's strongest growing sectors."
With confidence increasing, perceptions of the opportunities for innovation-driven growth have improved, but business leaders’ concern about their ability to secure the right skills to compete globally is increasing.
Automation is a key recurring theme in strategies for building the workforce of the future, with 58% automating certain functions, 40% investing in machine learning and emerging technologies, and 41% identifying workers are skilled at using new automation tools.
Tynan concluded: “APEC economies could be a test bed for the integration of automation with the workforce of tomorrow. Businesses know best what skills they need, and now public and private sectors need to work together to create practical ways to train, develop and access those skills.”
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