What if you hold a party and nobody comes? I have to admit that I was a little bit nervous in the weeks leading up to our first Asia-Pacific Congress. Held in Bangkok on March 28-29, the event was the first Asian conference sponsored by the Automotive News Group. Moreover, it was the first event of any kind sponsored by Automotive News International.
I am happy to report that the event was a success. A total of 182 people attended the conference, which attracted some of Asia's top auto executives. And we had a good turnout for our dinner, which featured keynote speaker Rudy Schlais, president of General Motors' Asian operations.
We asked our speakers to discuss a theme that preoccupies every auto executive in Southeast Asia: free trade. And our speakers seemed to agree on two key points: Free trade will come slowly to the region. And if Southeast Asia delays free trade, China will benefit. For more on this subject, see our conference coverage on Pages 30-33.
And anyone who wants to know what's at stake in the region should consult our chart on Page 25. This chart - which is part of this month's feature on economic development - shows how much automotive investment each country has attracted. Ten years ago, the ASEAN region attracted most of the auto industry's investment in Asia. Now, China leads the region.
But I think it's too early to conclude that Southeast Asia will be overshadowed by its neighbor to the north. As any visitor to Bangkok can see, the Thai economy gets a big boost from the entrepreneurial energy of its citizens. We will see who wins the race for economic leadership.
Naturally, we already are thinking about a possible event next year. We have not decided on the date or location of a future conference.
In theory, we could hold the event in such a place as Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.
I will admit that Bangkok seems like a fine location. But we would like to hear from our readers about your preferences. And for those who attended our first Congress - thanks for showing up. We enjoyed it, and we hope you did, too.
E-mail Editor David Sedgwick at [email protected]