BYLINE: Rosalind McLymont
Southeast Asia's growth potential leads to proliferation of free-trade deals
It's no accident that GlobalWare Solutions, a supply-chain management firm, chose Singapore to establish its Asia headquarters.
Highly industrialized and located at the entrance to the Strait of Malacca, Singapore is one of Asia's most important shipping hubs. The Port of Singapore is the world's biggest container port.
For a company such as GlobalWare, whose services include distribution of goods, order fulfillment and warehousing for companies doing business throughout Asia, the logistics advantages of Singapore are crucial.
"It gives access to large and emerging markets in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia is a critical place for us to be," said David Beatson, chief executive of GlobalWare, based in Redwood City, Calif.
Hailed as one of the world's most promising and dynamic economic regions of the 21st century, Southeast Asia has become a hotbed of free-trade rivalry, with U.S., European, Chinese and Indian companies vying for easy access to its more than half a billion consumers.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, has become a formidable presence on the global stage. Its members are Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The bulk of U.S. trade with the region takes place with the larger economies of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The ASEAN members had an overall economic growth rate of 5.5 percent in 2005, well above that of the U.S. and European Union. Its consumer market, estimated at nearly $300 billion, is said to equal that of China's booming coastal region in value.
Market opportunities abound in a slew of sectors -- financial services, infrastructure development, information and communications technologies, environment, power generation and …