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|The geographical region of South East Asia is variously defined, but generally agreed to include the Asean group - Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. Other regional countries, such as Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Kampuchea etc. are of course geographically part of the region, however in economic terms, they play a minor role. It is the Asean group that dominates present economic activity and provides the overwhelming opportunity for commercial development. My experience in South East Asia has been gleaned over 15 years of regular travel in the region. More recently, we have established company offices in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to extend and deepen contacts with major customers. This progressive development is an integral part of a planned growth pattern and will be discussed in more detail shortly. South East Asia is a rapidly developing economic growth centre, a fact which is clearly recognised and accepted by most commentators. An important question is then to be asked: Why has the region been relatively neglected by Australian, U.S. and European industrial supply companies? I will attempt to address this question in the context of industrial minerals and propose some ideas as to how effective sales programs could be developed. Firstly, let's consider the market potential provided by countries within the region. It is reasonable to suggest that industrial growth in S.E. Asia over the past 20 years has been generally steady and in some cases, explosive. Until recently, this growth has predominantly been driven by development of internal (regional) demand. Population growth and rising living standards have ensured that basic industries have enjoyed a solid uptrend in sales and production. The industries which most benefitted from regional economic development over this period were, interestingly, those which we understand to be major users of industrial minerals - glass, ceramics, paper, surface coatings, cement, refractories, rubber and plastics. Each of these industrial sectors has been influenced by different growth stimulii over a 20 year period. Nevertheless, they also enjoy a common feature which ensured an above average performance. All sectors are fundamental to an environment enjoying rising living standards and rapid growth in general prosperity. More recently, internal growth factors have been overtaken by a recognition that manufactured products from the region are competitive in export markets. This comparatively recent development provides the most interesting possibilities for higher value industrial mineral raw materials. Let me explain: For 20 years, industrial growth in South Asia has essentially been focused on satisfying domestic demand. Finished quality of manufactured items was orientated to a developing market more interested in cost than aesthetics or long life. This was reflected in raw material specifications, which often did not exist and at the best were undemanding.|