President's Newsletter - August 2019

August 2019 

Dear Members,

This month, ASEAN turned 52. ASEAN Day commemorates when foreign ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand signed the ASEAN Declaration on August 8, 1967 to create the regional bloc. Today with ten member states, ASEAN is one of the most exciting regions in the world. I was honored to represent the Council in Jakarta on August 8 with ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi and the ten ASEAN Foreign Ministers.  The Council congratulates the ten ASEAN member states, ASEAN citizens and the ASEAN Secretariat, who celebrated the occasion by inaugurating the new ASEAN Secretariat building in Jakarta.

This week, 46 member companies joined our annual Thailand Business Mission – our largest single business mission to any ASEAN nation. The group has met the newly formed Thai coalition government, holding discussions with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha and three of the five Deputy Prime Ministers including the leaders of the three largest parties in the coalition government, following the country’s first election in eight years. Over three days, delegates have had the opportunity to understand the new government’s priorities as well as the goals for the second half of Thailand’s ASEAN chairmanship year and beyond.  The group also traveled to the Eastern Economic Corridor to see firsthand the Thai Government’s showcase economic development and  infrastructure  program.  See our press release for more information. Next week, we will lead our annual Malaysia Business Mission and discuss the government’s priority areas and upcoming 2020 chairmanship of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Two weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo was also in Bangkok.  Secretary Pompeo visited Thailand, Australia and Micronesia from July 30-August 6 to reaffirm the commitment to regional partners central to the United States’ vision for the Indo-Pacific region.  In Bangkok on August 1, Secretary Pompeo co-chaired and delivered opening remarks at the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and remarks at the Lower Mekong Initiative Ministerial.  On his second day in Bangkok, Secretary Pompeo delivered remarks on U.S. economic engagement in Asia, participated in the East Asia Summit Ministerial and the ASEAN Regional Forum Ministerial and had a bilateral meeting with Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai to strengthen the U.S.-Thai Alliance.  The State Department issued a statement emphasizing the Mekong region as strategically important to the United States for its role in the Indo-Pacific Strategy and engagement with ASEAN (see the full statement).  Additionally, see Secretary Pompeo’s remarks to traveling press en route to Bangkok, a background briefing to press on U.S. engagement with the Indo-Pacific, and a joint statement on the Japan-United States Mekong Power Partnership (JUMPP).

Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Manisha Singh will also be in Myanmar and Laos as part of a regional trip from August 11-24.  A U.S. State Department media note said that “the trip is part of the Trump Administration’s ongoing efforts to enhance Indo-Pacific economic engagement.”

We are pleased that official statements around Secretary Pompeo’s engagements, including the U.S. and ASEAN official fact sheet, echo figures found in our just-launched “ASEAN Matters for America” publication.  Made possible with the support of our members, this publication quantifies various aspects of the U.S.-ASEAN relationship and makes a clear case for why ASEAN is the region to watch.  The Council is putting copies in the hands of opinion leaders and stakeholders in ASEAN and the United States, including leaders of think-tanks, academics, governors, mayors and every member of Congress. Boxes are also on the way to Singapore and Jakarta for further distribution to ASEAN officials and U.S. embassies. To see the publication, please visit   

U.S. Government engagement and positioning in ASEAN was among the many topics discussed during a fruitful Chairman’s Council Advisory Group Meeting on July 18.  The meeting enabled a group of member company representatives from diverse industries to identify and discuss common issues and experiences around the globe and in ASEAN.  The time allotted always seems to run out quickly, as each member brings an insight to every topic covered.  Convening a forum of leaders for these discussions aims to bring value to participants and for our leadership to align and inform our broader strategies.

In the region, we welcome familiar faces in new positions.  Patrick Murphy will soon be in Phnom Penh to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia.  Murphy previously served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  Ambassador Atul Keshap has taken over the role of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in EAP.  On July 30, the U.S. Embassy in Singapore welcomed senior U.S. diplomat Rafik Mansour as Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim. We look forward to continuing to work with these experienced leaders.

Next month, the Council looks forward to engaging ASEAN heads of state as they visit the United States for the UN General Assembly in New York.  Each year, we welcome the unique opportunity to have ASEAN heads of state visit the United States for this event.  Exactly which leaders and the timing of our engagements is still being finalized, but we expect several ASEAN leaders to visit this year.  We will share updates with members as soon as possible. 

In addition to the UN General Assembly, next month we will lead missions to the ASEAN Energy Ministers’ Meetings and ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meetings both in Bangkok.  The Council’s annual Philippines Business Mission will take place in Manila from September 16-18.

- Alex
August Highlights
Following the Council's update on July 12 on the draft decree to amend Decree 06/2016 on Radio and Television Services, which seeks to regulate Online Curated Content (OCC) such as Streaming Video on Demand (SVOD) and streaming music, the Council organized a door-knock mission to engage with the Office of the Government of Vietnam and other relevant agencies on July 29 – 30.
Council members extended support to Malaysia's “Industry 4WRD” National Policy through a July 22 workshop designed to help empower Malaysian Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.  See our press release for more information. The workshop was conducted in close collaboration with Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).
Congresswoman Ann Wagner gave opening remarks at the July 23 launch of “ASEAN Matters for America” fourth edition on Capitol Hill.  Rep. Wagner noted that the publication was the “greatest resource on ASEAN.”  Congressman Ted Yoho, Indonesia Ambassador Mahendra Siregar, and Google Senior Counsel Astri Kimball Van Dyke also gave remarks.
Country, Industry and Advocacy Updates

Key Developments

  • New Government Delivers Policy Statement Before Parliament, Highlighting Coalition Parties’ Key Policy Priorities: On July 25 and 26, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha delivered his Government’s policy statement to Parliament, which was required for the Government to begin official duties. This policy statement discussed areas ranging from infrastructure and the tax system to public health and education (see the policy statement here). In particular, the statement outlined the Government’s 12 main policies and 12 urgent policies; the main policies highlight the broader goals of the Government, while the urgent policies include more actionable items (see main and urgent policies here).  The Cabinet also approved the creation of a new Economic Council to be overseen by Prime Minister Prayut.
  • Thailand Pushes Major EEC Infrastructure Projects Forward: Developing the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) has been a continued government priority to advance the Thai economy.  Local communities have raised concerns about impacts of EEC projects, urging the Government to listen to local input and consider environmental ramifications as major projects progress. Ms. Tasanee Kiatpatraporn, Deputy Secretary-General of the EEC, has promised that the EEC would take into account the law and the opinions of local organizations and residents before implementing any project. Read more here.
  • Labor groups await finalization of Philippines’ Universal Health Care Law: Labor groups are watching for finalization of the implementing rules and regulations of the Universal Health Care Law for clarification on regularization of health professionals and health care workers. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Universal Health Care Act into law in March. The move to the regularization of workers has drawn confusion over how benefits will apply to public and private healthcare employees. The bill also encourages institutions to hire more healthcare workers, which may encourage progress towards more effective and substantive medical care that addresses the issue of limited numbers of health professionals.
  • Singapore Responds to Cybersecurity Threats with Public Measures: On July 15, Singapore’s Public Sector Data Security Review Committee announced 13 new data protection measures for all public agencies. The new public measures include enforcing password encryption best practices, isolating sensitive data from broader datasets, standardizing data security training, and regulating public-to-private information sharing.
  • Indonesia's Halal Product Assurance (HPA) Law to come into Effect on October 17: Almost five years after its passage, State Law No. 33/2014 on Halal Product Assurance (HPA) will come into effect in Indonesia on October 17. The date of the law's enactment was confirmed with President Joko Widodo's signing of Government Regulation No. 31/2019 ("GR 31") concerning the Implementing Regulation of Law No. 33/2014. According to the HPA Law, all products that enter, circulate and are traded in Indonesia will eventually have to be halal-certified and labeled. In the first phase of implementing the HPA Law, only food, beverages and products containing animal derivatives will require halal certification. Such products which pass certification are required to display a halal label.
  • Digital ID Services to be Implemented in Thailand This Year: On July 22, the Stock Exchange of Thailand completed the digital gateway to Thailand’s National Digital ID (NDID) Platform which enables customers to use biometrics for verification and gain access to various financial and governmental services. The NDID gateway will be publicly implemented in the financial services sector in the fourth quarter of this year and is expected to move into other sectors, such as insurance and retail, if successful.  The NDID platform uses blockchain and facial recognition technology, while following UN digital ID and e-authentication collaborations in ASEAN. Read more here.
  • Union Ministers Investigated for Corruption: On July 26, Myanmar Union Minister for Industry U Khin Maung Cho was “allowed to resign” from his cabinet post amid a corruption scandal. On July 30, Union Minister for Planning and Finance U Soe Win was appointed Industry Minister, a position he will hold concurrently with his existing portfolio. Additionally, the Union Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating the bank account transactions of the Union Minister for Electricity and Energy, U Win Khaing, and his Deputy Minister, U Tun Naing, as well as those of their wives. Read more here.
  • Thailand receives Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles from the Pentagon: On July 26, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced the approval of Thailand’s request for 60 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles by the U.S. Department of State. The US $175 million sale will “help Thailand bridge its capability void between light infantry soldiers and heavy mechanized units,” and improve security of a major non-NATO ally in INDO-PACOM according to a statement from the DSCA. Read more here.
  • Indonesia, Vietnam Look for Ways to Tax Online Services: Indonesia’s Taxation Directorate General recently announced its preparations for taxing all services and transactions related to the digital economy. Officials in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City are also contemplating taxes on transactions over social media platforms to modernize revenue streams, according to the HCMC Tax Department.  This follows Malaysia’s passage of a digital services tax this past April (the bill will go into effect January 2020).  Thailand’s plans to pass a VAT on foreign e-commerce activity have not yet passed, but may be likely to with the new Government. The current mix of voluntary and ineffective collection methods could soon be replaced by stricter tax regulations with little leniency for tax evasion. Read more here.
  • WHO Reports on Vaccinable Diseases in ASEAN: The World Health Organization (WHO) warned against the use of three counterfeit rabies vaccines and one counterfeit anti-rabies serum that is currently circulating in the Philippines. This comes amid a global rabies vaccine shortage. After comparison with genuine batches from manufacturers, the fake batches were all found to have labelling and packaging inconsistencies. So far, no adverse reactions attributed to the falsified products have been reported to the WHO. The Food and Drug Administration had earlier issued separate advisories warning the public against the said products. Read more here.
Current Advocacy
  • Final Call for Input on Vietnam's Online Curated Content (OCC) Regulation [Draft Decree to Amend Decree 06/2016]: The Council has developed its final draft industry submission for Vietnam's Online Curated Content (OCC) Regulation [Draft Decree to Amend Decree 06/2016], which seeks to regulate the management, provision and use of radio and television services in Vietnam. Members can see the Council's final draft submission, and updated Draft Decree to Amend Decree 06/2016. Contact: Ella Duangkaew ( or Jamie Lim (
  • Vietnam Draft Decree of the Law on Cybersecurity (LOCS) - Third Draft Submission: The Council, along with BSA | The Software Alliance, has developed a third draft joint submission of its comments for the Draft Decree of the Law on Cybersecurity, based on the Decree's July Draft. Members may see the Council's third draft submission, and the July Draft of the Decree. Members are also encouraged to attend the workshop on the LOCS on August 16 in Ho Chi Minh City which will provide an opportunity for participants to ask about provisions of the July draft decree. Contact: Ella Duangkaew ( or Jamie Lim (
  • Draft Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) bill amending R.A. NO. 7916 (Special Economic Zone Act of 1995):  Members who are located in PEZA zones or are currently looking into PEZA zones are encouraged to provide feedback. Members may review a copy of the bill and a summary of proposed amendments, and give comments by August 30 for a possible submission through the Council. Contact: Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez at ( or Elizabeth Magsaysay-Crebassa (
  • Singapore’s Long-Term Low Emissions Strategy: The Council seeks members’ views on Singapore’s Long-Term Low Emissions Strategy. On July 16, the Government of Singapore issued a public consultation document on developing Singapore’s Long-Term Low Emissions Strategy. The Prime Minister’s Office, in coordination with relevant agencies through the National Climate Change Secretariat, is seeking the public’s views on how Singapore can become a low-carbon global city-state with a competitive economy, sustainable environment, and a high quality of life for all. Members are encouraged to give comments before August 26 for a possible submission. Public comment may be submitted directly to by August 30. Contact: Sunita Kapoor ( or Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez (  
  • UN Every Woman Every Child (EWEC):  As part of our EWEC commitment, the Council is putting together a website to consolidate and display related projects members are involved with in Southeast Asia. We are collecting submissions from members who would like their work featured. This can include past, present or future programs related to EWEC. This work will be used to show ASEAN governments the positive impact the American business community has on the communities in which we operate. Contact: Hai Pham (
  • MOU Signed with MARD of Vietnam on Strengthening Agriculture Competition: On June 28, the Council conducted a Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Vietnam where a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Council and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). The objective of this MOU is to enhance cooperation between the Council and MARD in areas where both Parties share mutual interests and will cooperate to create an environment that fosters collaboration and regular communication. The MOU can be reviewed here. The Council calls on members to provide any proposals for workshops under the auspices of this MOU. Contact: Sunita Kapoor ( 
  • Consolidating Food & Agriculture Statistics in ASEAN Project: The Council’s Food & Agriculture Team is currently working on an internal project, collating key statistics for the Food & Agriculture sector in ASEAN. This will be useful for the Council’s leaders and mission delegates during our various industry missions, workshops, roundtables, and position papers during missions. Contact: Sunita Kapoor (
  • Health & Life Sciences Statistics: The Council’s Health & Life Sciences Team is currently working on an internal project, collating key statistics for the healthcare sector in ASEAN. This will be useful for the Council’s leaders and mission delegates during our various health & life sciences-related industry missions, workshops, roundtables, and position papers. Contact: Sunita Kapoor (
Relationship Building
  • Senate confirms U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia: W. Patrick Murphy has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the new U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Murphy previously served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and is a career member of the Foreign Service, having served as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in Bangkok, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Acting Special Representative & Policy Coordinator for Burma and other positions, making him well-equipped for his new role.
  • New Principal Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs: Ambassador Atul Keshap has taken over the role of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  Ambassador Keshap is a career senior Foreign Service officer and has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, as U.S. Senior Official for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation , and as an Office Director in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
  • New personnel at top U.S. Diplomatic posts in ASEAN:  At the U.S. Embassy in Singapore, Rafik Mansour began his service as Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim and Christopher R. Quinlivan started as the new Senior Commercial Officer.  Marie Damour is the new U.S. Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City.  Mark Lewis is the new Senior Commercial Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. The Council was pleased to host all four diplomats for roundtables in Washington D.C. over the past few weeks before their respective departures for posts in the region. The Council’s Hanoi office will hold a welcome reception for Damour upon her arrival at post. Michael Heath will assume the role of Chargé d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok by the end of this month, and the Council hosted a roundtable with Heath on August 15.
  • OECD panel discussion in Kuala Lumpur on “Post-Launching of the Second Economic Assessment for Malaysia:”  A distinguished panel of speakers from OECD shared their insights on the current development of selected areas in Malaysia from various perspectives on July 26. Issues on human capital development make up the Thematic Chapter of this report.  The program and biographies of speakers can be found here.
  • Door-Knock Mission on Vietnam OCC Regulation: Following the Council's update on July 12 on the draft decree to amend Decree 06/2016 on Radio and Television Services, which seeks to regulate Online Curated Content (OCC) such as Streaming Video on Demand (SVOD) and streaming music, the Council organized an emergency door-knock mission to engage with the Office of the Government of Vietnam and other relevant agencies on July 29 - 30, 2019. The purpose of the mission was to share concerns about the draft decree and present our recommendations to the decision makers.
  • Meeting with Assistant Secretary David Stilwell in Bangkok: On July 19, the Council was pleased to receive Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell for a working lunch with members.  This was Stilwell’s first trip to Asia in the role of as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP).  See photos of the meeting on the EAP official Twitter page.  
  • ASEAN Defense Attachés Luncheon: On August 6, the Council hosted ASEAN defense attachés for a lunch discussion about the region’s future growth in maritime and civil aviation.  Eight ASEAN defense attachés attended the discussion.
  • Council meets ASEAN press delegation reporting on U.S. Indo-Pacific vision: On August 7, the Council hosted a delegation of journalists from various ASEAN Nations to offer a U.S. business perspective on U.S.-ASEAN relations. The delegation is touring the U.S. to report on the Indo-Pacific vision. The tour is arranged by the U.S. Department of State - Foreign Press Center.
  • Energy Committee convenes Asia EDGE stakeholders meeting: On July 23, the Council's Energy Committee hosted a meeting for the U.S. Government's Asia Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy (Asia EDGE) initiative, part of the administration's Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision. The purpose of the meeting was to convene members of the public and private sectors to facilitate a dialogue on the challenges that U.S. energy companies face in Asia and the type of information that the U.S. Government needs to ensure Asia EDGE addresses these challenges. Meeting attendees included Melissa Simpson, Deputy Assistant of State for the Energy Transformation, and Elizabeth Urbanas, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for Asia and the Americas. Other attendees included representatives from U.S. government agencies, think-tanks and Energy Committee leadership. The Energy Committee plans to convene more Asia EDGE stakeholder meetings. If you are interested, contact Riley Smith at
  • Welcome Luncheon for Malaysian Ambassador Dato’ Azmil Mohd Zabidi: On July 24, the Council was pleased to host a welcome luncheon for Ambassador of Malaysia to the United States, Dato’ Azmil Mohd Zabidi. Having received his undergraduate and graduate degree in Iowa, Ambassador Zabidi knows the U.S. well. The Council is pleased to formally welcome him to Washington.  
  • Understanding opportunities in the Fakfak Regency of West Papua, Indonesia: On July 30, the Council was pleased to join the Indonesian Embassy for a breakfast to discuss the economic potential of and investment opportunities in the Fakfak region of West Papua, Indonesia.  West Papua is the second least populous province in Indonesia, but in 2018, Bank Indonesia recorded 7.7 percent economic growth in the province. This rate exceeds the national economic growth rate. The breakfast presented areas of investment priority and opportunity in the region, including in mining, agriculture and tourism.
Looking Ahead
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Media Highlights
#DYK the United States is the largest foreign investor in Singapore.
These U.S. businesses invest in people, communities, the environment, innovative products and services, and shared values such as diversity and inclusion. That’s why we have produced the American Corporate Excellence (ACE) video series – to showcase American companies that have outstanding corporate social responsibility initiatives, high standards for quality, reliability, and partnership, produce innovative products and services, and employ and train exceptional individuals.
In the first episode of this series, we spotlight one of the longest-running youth social entrepreneurship initiatives in Singapore – “Citi-YMCA Youth For Causes.” The joint effort by Citi and YMCA of Singapore has engaged almost 6,000 young people in causes raising over S$10 million for charity. ACE is brought to you by U.S. Embassy Singapore and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.
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