On behalf of the entire staff of the US-ASEAN Business Council, I want to wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous Lunar New Year and Tet as we welcome the Year of the Tiger. This year, we are excited to engage Cambodia as it assumes the chairmanship of ASEAN. We look forward to helping Cambodia advance regional economic development and community building efforts under its chosen theme of Addressing Challenges Together.
As you may recall, we reached out before the holidays to let you know of the likely possibility of a U.S.-ASEAN Special Leaders’ Summit hosted in Washington, DC by President Biden that would include ASEAN heads of state and senior ministers. The Summit was originally set for late January but has since been postponed to February or early March given the rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 situation. During the Summit, the administration would like to make announcements about private sector investments in the region. Additionally, we expect there to be a significant private sector presence at the Summit, including a likely CEO-level policy lunch that would focus on key policy areas such as the digital economy, sustainability and the regional energy transition, healthcare, infrastructure, and more. Please contact Bernie Baskin (email@example.com) if your CEO may be interested in such an engagement.
On January 26, six U.S. government agencies – the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Labor, and Homeland Security as well as the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) – co-published a business advisory report on the heightened risks of doing business in Myanmar. The advisory highlights the U.S. government’s concern with the following entities and sectors due to their role in providing direct economic benefits to the Myanmar military:
- State Owned Enterprises (SOEs)
- Gems and precious metals
- Real-estate and construction projects
- Arms, military equipment, and related activity
Additionally, the advisory warns of significant risks and gaps in the implementation of Myanmar’s anti-money laundering (AML) and counter financing of terrorism (CFT) legal framework. As such, financial institutions were encouraged to reconsider Myanmar’s deficiencies in their risk analysis. The full advisory, which is 15 pages long, can be accessed here.
Understanding the importance of establishing a digital trade regime in the region, the Biden Administration will soon unveil its Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). Before the framework is released, the Council seeks input from its members on what should be included in the IPEF. The Council will convey members’ feedback to USTR and the U.S. Department of Commerce to ensure that U.S. private sector views are known as the IPEF is being developed. Please contact Marc Mealy (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details on IPEF advocacy.
The U.S. Congress is also taking an increased interest in digital trade issues in the Indo-Pacific. On January 19, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation held a hearing on the strategic importance of digital economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific region. The Subcommittee invited three highly experienced witnesses – Christine Bliss, President of the Coalition of Services Industries; Wendy Cutler, Vice President of the Asia Society Policy Institute; and David Feith, Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for New American Security — to reaffirm the importance of engaging the Indo-Pacific, particularly ASEAN nations, through a digital trade agreement. Representatives from both sides of the aisle spoke emphatically about the benefits of working with Southeast Asian leaders to reach such an agreement. The Council is proud to have engaged with several members of Congress and their staff in preparation for the hearing and continues to work with Capitol Hill on this issue and others to strengthen U.S.-ASEAN relations.
Earlier this month, the Council hosted a virtual briefing with the new U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, Marc Knapper. During the briefing, members got to know the Ambassador, provided overviews of their many projects in Vietnam, and spoke to ongoing challenges in the region. Specifically, members voiced issues surrounding Vietnam’s digital economy, enhancing supply chain resiliency, and responding to the pandemic.
Indonesia assumed the G20 Presidency on December 1 with the theme of “Recover Together, Recover Stronger.” The G20 Summit will be preceded by the B20 Summit, an advocacy forum for the G20 business community hosted this year by the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN). The first “B20 Indonesia 2022 Inception Meeting” was held on January 27-28. More information on B20 events can be found at www.b20indonesia2022.org.
From January 17-21, the Council held its 2022 Virtual Mission to the 25th Meeting of the ASEAN Tourism Ministers (M-ATM), hosted in a hybrid format by the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia. The meeting was hosted in-person for ASEAN officials and virtually for external partners, including the Council. In two plenary sessions with the national tourism organizations (NTOs) and the Ministers, the Council echoed policy recommendations on safe travel, highlighted by the Council’s Report on Bouncing Forward from COVID-19 and shared member data insights and industry trends. The delegation also met virtually with the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh and exchanged information on developments in Cambodia and ASEAN. The Council thanks delegation members for their continued support of this mission and hopes to work with the broader membership to promote travel reopening in ASEAN.
The Council was honored to host the second installment of our Chief Sustainability Officer Fireside Chat Series on January 11 with a phenomenal guest, Dr. Gayle Schueller, Senior Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at 3M. Gayle started in 3M’s corporate laboratory as a product development engineer and shared a unique perspective on sustainability, drawing from her over 29 years of technical and business leadership experience. I enjoyed our conversation, which touched on the outcomes of COP26; how sustainability will feature in the upcoming APEC, G20, and ASEAN Summit agendas; and what the future holds for integrating sustainability policies and best practices into the corporate world.
The Council celebrated the beginning of Ambassador Rosan Roeslani’s tenure as Indonesian Ambassador to the United States during a welcome luncheon in Washington, DC, on December 15. During the luncheon, Amb. Roeslani highlighted three areas he plans to prioritize during his ambassadorship: U.S.-Indonesia trade in the healthcare sector, renewable energy, and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) development using digital platforms. In addition to representatives from the Council’s member companies, representatives from USTR, the Department of Commerce, ASEAN Embassies, and U.S. think tanks were present to show support to the Ambassador.
Given the environmental importance of plastic pollution and growing discussions around circularity in ASEAN, the Council hosted a workshop on December 15 to share best practices among private sector experts and APAC government officials. Speakers included Marc Mealy, SVP for Policy at the Council; Keiji Nakashima, Director, Office of Policies Against Marine Plastic Pollution, Ministry of the Environment, Japan; Stewart Harris, Senior Director, Global Plastics Policy, Plastics Division, American Chemistry Council; Dalson Chung, Director, National Environment Agency; and more. If you missed the workshop, you can view a full recording online here.
Thank you as always for your support.
Roundtable with Malaysia’s Minister of International Trade and Industry (February 11)
On February 11, the Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be hosting senior executives from our member companies for a roundtable discussion with Malaysia’s Senior Minister and Minister of International Trade and Industry, Mohamed Azmin bin Ali. The roundtable discussion will take place in a hybrid format, whereby selected leading members will attend in person at the Council’s Washington, DC office and the remainder will attend virtually. The discussion will focus on policy actions that can be taken by the Malaysian government to increase investment in their country. For more information about this event, please contact Kim Yaeger (email@example.com) and Alberto Coria (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Vietnam Business Mission (Week of March 7)
From March 7 to 10, the Council will be organizing its annual Business Mission to Vietnam, which we expect will take place entirely in person. The Mission will include meetings with key government officials in Vietnam and feature a welcome reception for incoming U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, Marc Knapper. A formal invitation will be sent in due course. In the meantime, please contact Nguyen Hien Chi (email@example.com) and Minh Vu (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information or to indicate interest. On the side lines of the Vietnam Business Mission, the Council’s Energy Committee will also be organizing its first ever Energy Mission to Vietnam, featuring meetings with energy stakeholders and a half-day policy dialogue to discuss the Low Carbon Energy Partnership Workshop, tentatively scheduled on March 7. Additionally, the Council’s Health & Life Sciences (HLS) Committee will also be conducting its 9th Consecutive Health & Life Science Business Mission to Vietnam from March 10 to 11, featuring a signing ceremony to kickstart the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Vietnam Social Security. It will also host the 7th Joint Working Group Meeting on the MoU with the Ministry of Health, where members will provide updates on ongoing projects under the MoU and propose new projects for 2022. For the Energy Mission, please contact Kim Yaeger (email@example.com), and for the HLS Mission, please contact J-Ren Ong (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Supply Chain Policy Retreat (TBD)
As we look to engage on supply chain-related issues with both American and ASEAN stakeholders, the Council plans to conduct a Policy Retreat for members on US-ASEAN Supply Chains: Emerging Challenges and Opportunities. The retreat will be held in Q1 and consist of keynote addresses, panel discussions, and moderated dialogues. It will provide a platform for Council members to engage with U.S. and ASEAN government officials, industry experts, and academic and think tank thought leaders. The Policy Retreat will feature sponsorship opportunities for members interested in developing the retreat’s agenda. Members interested in this Policy Retreat should contact Marc Mealy at email@example.com.
In the Press
The Council’s President & CEO Ambassador Ted Osius discusses maritime security in Southeast Asia in a recent Business Insider piece. Read more here. US-ABC Joins Business Groups in Urging the Philippine Congress to Amend Public Services Act
US-ABC joined dozens of business organizations and chambers of commerce in calling for the Philippine Congress to ratify a bill amending the Public Services Act (PSA) that would create a more friendly business environment. Read more here. Marc Mealy Represents US-ABC at National Fisheries Institute’s Global Seafood Market Conference
The Council’s Senior Vice President - Policy Marc Mealy explained how the changing international seafood market is likely to favor Southeast Asia in the near future. Read more here.
- Brunei Darussalam announced that the Sultanate has entered the Early Endemic Phase, which was recently extended through February 14.
- Under this phase, COVID-19 restrictions have been eased and government offices and businesses may operate at up to 75 percent capacity, although the nightly curfew is still in effect.
- Although visa-on-arrival services are still suspended in Cambodia, officials have opened up tourist visas, e-visas, and exemptions for visas.
- Most schools have been allowed to re-open, and authorities are allowing gatherings without a capacity limit, though participants must maintain social distancing measures.
- Indonesia and Singapore have gradually initiated a plan to start a “Quarantine-Free Travel Bubble” for the fully vaccinated between their two countries. This move is meant to improve tourism between Indonesia and Singapore.
- Laos re-opened arrivals from 31 countries starting January 1 and succeeded in meeting its target of vaccinating 50% of its population by the end of 2021.
- Malaysia’s Ministry of Health announced that fully-vaccinated travelers who have previously been infected with COVID-19 within the past 11 to 60 days are not required to undergo mandatory quarantine.
- The State of Mobile report ranked Malaysia’s MySejahtera app as the best COVID-19 app in 2021. The country's vaccination rates continue to impress, with 98% of adults receiving two doses and 45.1% receiving a booster.
- Myanmar authorities have canceled international flights until January 31. However, this does not include relief, cargo, medical evacuation, and special flights.
- Myanmar is still not open to tourists. Foreigners who need to travel must have essential reasons and meet the COVID-19 requirements set by authorities.
- Considering the increase in cases of COVID-19, the Philippines Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) decided to place Kalinga, Ifugao, Mountain Province, and Northern Samar under the stricter Alert Level 4 through the end of January.
- International travel still requires a negative result from an RT-PCR test. On January 28, Tourism Secretary Romulo-Puyat announced that the government will remove quarantine requirements for returning Filipinos from February 1, and for foreign tourists from February 10 from visa-free countries, but they must be vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 from a RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours from departure.
- On January 5, the Singapore government announced that people will lose their "fully vaccinated" status after 270 days if they do not receive a dose of a COVID-19 mRNA booster vaccine.
- Thailand will restart its Test & Go program for entry beginning on February 1.
- Starting on January 24, alcohol sales at restaurants are allowed until 11:00 PM in designated tourism zones and lower risk provinces.
- Beginning January 1, Vietnam has reduced quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated international arrivals. Those with a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test may now self-quarantine at their place of accommodation for three days upon arrival.
- On January 1, the Vietnamese government approved the resumption of international flights between Vietnam and nine destinations as a part of the first phase of their staged border reopening.
- Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung mentioned plans for Vietnam’s full re-opening to foreign tourists beginning April 30.
RCEP in Full Effect
On January 1, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) went into force. RCEP is now the largest trade pact in the world, representing roughly 30% of the world’s population amongst 15 countries, including all ten ASEAN member states. The states that have ratified the treaty are Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Covering a market of 2.2 billion people, RCEP has a predicted USD 26.2 trillion worth of global output. Businesses operating within RCEP’s trade bloc can benefit from preferential market access for specific products, such as mineral fuels, plastics, miscellaneous food preparations and beverages, and other chemical products in certain markets such as China, Japan, and South Korea. Additionally, tariffs will be cut for about 92% of goods traded amongst signatory parties that have ratified the free trade agreement.
Notably, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Philippines have yet to ratify the deal. Countries that have not ratified the deal are not yet legally bound to the treaty and thus will not receive the benefits of the RCEP bloc until they have done so. Once ratified, countries must wait 60 days until the agreement officially goes into effect in their country. Indonesia is set to ratify the agreement within Q1 of 2022, with Indonesia President Joko Widodo vowing to sign off on the ratification after parliamentary approval. South Korea also had a delayed ratification, with the agreement not set to take effect in the state until February 1, 60 days after ratification.
Indonesia and Singapore Launch Vaccinated Travel Bubble
On January 24, Singapore resumed quarantine-free travel between Indonesian islands Batam and Bintan. The travel bubble is only available to fully vaccinated travellers and is limited to passengers traveling by sea between Singapore and the Nongsapura and Bandar Bintan Belani Ferry Terminals in Batam and Bintan Telani respectively. Passengers must present proof of vaccination, produce a negative RT-PCR test within 24 hours of departure, and provide the correct tourist visa and travel bubble documents. Most notably, foreign visitors must also provide evidence of health insurance, with a minimum coverage of US22,300 (SGD 30,000) that includes the financing of COVID-19 handling, as well as medical evacuation towards a referral hospital. Once approved, visitors must use specialised PeduliLindungi and Bluepass tracing apps whilst doing activities in the travel bubble area.
MAS Issues Guidelines Limiting Cryptocurrency Trading by Public
On January 17, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) issued guidelines to limit cryptocurrency trading service providers from promoting their services to the general public to shield retail investors from potential risks. The guidelines clarify the MAS’s expectations for companies not to engage in the marketing or advertising of digital payment tokens (DPT) services in public areas or through third parties. These guidelines apply to all firms offering crypto services in Singapore, including those licensed under Singapore’s Payment Services Act. The MAS has received around 180 applications for licenses to provide DPT services. Five have been approved, sixty have withdrawn their applications, and three have been rejected. In addition to these guidelines, the MAS has also prohibited cryptocurrency firms from installing physical ATMs in public areas. Singapore’s tightened regulations are primarily for protection against money laundering and terrorism financing, as well as the current rise in phishing scams.
Philippines Confirms BrahMos Cruise Missile Deal with India
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana publicly agreed to purchase the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile system from India on December 31, 2021. The deal is worth USD 375 million and marks India’s first ever international sale of the BrahMos. In total, the Philippines will obtain three batteries of the missile system, each containing two missile launchers, a radar, and a command-and-control center.
Call for Input on the Proposed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF)
As the Biden Administration prepares to step up its economic cooperation game in the Indo-Pacific region in, US-ABC is seeking feedback from members on the proposed U.S.- Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). The Council understands the following points are pertinent to the IPEF:
- The IPEF will attempt to set regional trade rules and regulations, and it will be formally proposed in Q1 and co-led by USTR Tai and Secretary of Commerce Raimondo.
- The initial eight Asian nations expected to be included are: Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam.
- The IPEF will consist of seven “modules” including such issue areas as: Supply Chain Resilience; Fair & Resilient Trade; Decarbonization & Clean Energy; Infrastructure; and Technology.
- The IPEF will seek to be flexible and inclusive in the development of each module’s binding rules and principles.
- The IPEF will not seek to include new market access commitments.
Given that four ASEAN member states are included in the initial group to receive the proposed IPEF, the Council would like to develop and transmit a paper to the USG containing the views of USABC members.
Specifically, members are invited to share:
- Views and comments on what should be included or sought in each of the above modules of the IPEF, which could generate commercially significant benefits to American companies and investors doing business in the Indo-Pacific region. (Note, the Council has already received significant input from members on what should be included in any future USG proposed digital trade & technology agreements.)
- Views and comments on what commercially significant challenges could be addressed and or benefits derived for American companies and investors doing business in the Indo-Pacific region, if they were included in the IPEF.
The Council will convey member’s feedback to USTR and the U.S. Department of Commerce to ensure that U.S. private sector views are known as the IPEF is being developed. Please email Marc Mealy (firstname.lastname@example.org) to submit feedback, comments or questions on the IPEF. It would be highly appreciated if members could give feedback by Friday, February 11.