While Singapore continues to lead the sector with Malaysia second, competition remains fierce between Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. Vietnam’s electronics exports have also seen a $737.7m surge.

ASEAN’s plan for integrating the sector includes measures to eliminate both tariff and non-tariff barriers, improve the CEPT rules of origin, simplify customs procedures, expedite integrated transport logistics and promote outsourcing.

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The steady improvement in the sector poses a competitive threat to other Asian countries, such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China, and this intra-Asia electronics competition between north Asia-ASEAN countries has implications both outside and within the region.

As a result, more strategic planning and competitive intelligence capacity and resources need to be built, both from in-house and outsourcing to external third parties, such as think tanks and consultancies. This will improve the effectiveness of monitoring the fast-changing environment, currently exacerbated by the lack of sector and corporate-level information in Asia.

Sector productivity and innovation – key to sustaining sector development and industrial competitiveness – must also be improved, together with more focused skilled labour input.

The stakes have gone up in Asia and the hare will not wait for the tortoise – with or without regional co-operation. The days of cut-throat regional, national and sector competitiveness are here to stay and will intensify all across Asia.

Lawrence Yeo is CEO of AsiaBIZ Strategy, a Singapore-based consultancy that provides Asia market research and investment/trade promotion services.

Email: Lawrence@asiabizstrategy.com