According to a recent study by the East-West Center in Washington and the Stimson Center Southeast Asia Program, more than 1,000 US Companies are active in the five Mekong countries and more than half are planning expansion in the region.
The Mekong Region
As the report details, the Mekong Region is composed of 5 countries: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam – all located in the Mekong River Basin. Together, they have a population of 240 million.
The US, China, Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are all currently supporting economic development in the Mekong Region. “Since 2000, the United States has established a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with each of the five Mekong countries, the most recent being with Myanmar in 2013, signed in response to democratic reforms there. Despite close economic ties to China, Cambodia’s largest trading partner is the United States”, the report details.
In 2018, the region’s economies collectively grew 6% – driven primarily by an expansion in manufacturing in Vietnam and Cambodia. While tourism contributed more than 20% to the GDP of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.
US corporate presence in the Mekong poised to expand
As a 2019 ASEAN Business Outlook Survey of US companies operating in the Mekong region reflects, 61% see the region as increasingly important to their worldwide revenue. And 60% plan to expand their Mekong operations – with Vietnam and Thailand ranked as the top two destinations.
Law firms in the region
Law firms operating in the Mekong region would, therefore, be wise to focus some of their marketing and business development activities on the US corporate sector already in the region or considering opening there.