Free trade is coming to Asia's auto industry. It won't be easy, and there will be backtracking, but the trend is clear. Western automakers have penetrated Japan's markets by buying shares of Mitsubishi, Nissan, Mazda, Suzuki and Isuzu. China has entered the World Trade Organization, and South Korea has allowed foreigners to invest in Samsung and possibly Daewoo.
The next big step for free trade will come in Southeast Asia. Ten countries in the ASEAN region are struggling to reduce tariffs and other barriers that restrict the flow of vehicles and parts. Prospects for AFTA, or the Asia Free Trade Area, are unclear, and negotiations may yet get sidetracked.
The auto industry could use a tutorial in the regional politics of trade, and we intend to offer it. On March 28 and 29, Automotive News International is launching its first Asia-Pacific World Congress. We will hold our two-day event in the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok. Our theme will be 'When the Barriers Come Down: Opportunity in Asia.' The event is timed to coincide with the Bangkok auto show, which starts the day after our conference concludes.
Our Asia Congress is patterned after similar conferences mounted by the Automotive News Group in the United States and Europe. The Asia Congress is aimed at auto executives and suppliers. Speakers include senior executives from General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Delphi, Denso and Autoliv. Attendees will have a chance to meet and chat with our speakers at cocktail parties and dinner.
We will accommodate a variety of viewpoints and - yes - some disagreement about the right policies to pursue in this region. But that is only to be expected; Asia's markets are more polyglot than markets in any other region of the world.
Those who wish to register can do so online at www.auto newsinternational.com. For more information, you can e-mail our Bangkok organizers at [email protected] Or you can phone our organizers at 662-264-0699. And our Bangkok fax number is 662-264-0701. We hope to see you there.
You can e-mail David Sedgwick at [email protected]