President’s Newsletter – February 2018
First, I want to wish everyone a Happy Lunar New Year! May the Year of the Dog bring you great health, happiness and prosperity.
As we head towards March, the Council’s schedule is really starting to heat up. We just welcomed a U.S. Congressional Delegation in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand and gave our members based in these countries an opportunity to hear directly from American lawmakers about what is happening in Washington, as well as for the Congressmen to learn from our members about important issues in the region. Among the members of Congress on the delegation were Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who led the delegation as well as Chairman Ted Yoho (R-FL) who Chairs the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.
The CPTPP text has been agreed to and the formal agreement set for signing on March 8, 2018 by the TPP-11. President Trump and Vice President Pence both have opened the door to a possible return to TPP. On January 25 on CNBC at the World Economic Forum, the President indicated that should the Trump Administration be able to negotiate a “substantially better” deal, he would be open to joining TPP, a major step towards entertaining multilateral trade deals beyond NAFTA.
Since I last wrote, I also made my first trip of the year to ASEAN visiting Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. At each stop except Malaysia, I met with the U.S. Ambassador and reviewed member priorities, as well as had a chance to review the domestic political and economic situation with each Ambassador.
My visit to Yangon was primarily to pave the way for our management of the US-ICT Council for Myanmar, which the Council took responsibility for on January 1, 2018. We are in the process of formally registering the entity and getting it set up in Myanmar, including hiring a new Executive Director. The issues in Rakhine State are still making headlines in the U.S. and around the world and should not be minimized. However, the rules of the road for the Digital Economy are being written now and the U.S. ICT Council for Myanmar and the US-ASEAN Business Council are in a unique position to help shape this future. We are excited to work with our members on this project.
Thailand was a quick stop. Elections look farther away with the current thinking that the elections may not be called in 2018 and may take place in the first half of 2019. The Queen Mother’s health and the formal coronation of King Rama X could further delay elections.
My Indonesia stop saw the most meetings with Government officials where I raised member concerns, while at the same time paving the way for our March business mission. I had an opportunity to meet with President Jokowi’s new Chief of Staff, General Moeldoko, who was gracious enough to make time for me on an otherwise very busy day. While this was a courtesy call, I could tell that the General brought a very different style to the office than his two predecessors whom I also had a chance to meet. Military precision was the best description of his style. He promised to support our business mission. I also met with Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, who knows the Council well and through whom all of our letters to President Jokowi pass.
As many of you know, Indonesia is slated to host the World Bank/IMF Annual meeting in Bali in October and I had a chance to meet with Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Natural Resources and the Environment Luhut Panjaitan who is the primary coordinator for this important event. We discussed the Council’s support for the meetings and specific opportunities for our members to get involved. I also met with Chair of the President’s Advisory Council Dr. Sri Adiningsih, Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) Chairman Tom Lembong, and Minister for Communications, Information and Technology Rudiantara. My meeting with Minister Rudi was the most focused on member issues. We touched on the eCommerce Roadmap, OTT, and Data Protection Bill as well GR 82 and the 2018 ASEAN TelMin. Minister Rudi shared the current draft of the revised Amendment of GR82 which he feels addresses the concerns of the Council and the business community. We have circulated the draft for your consideration in Bahasa and English. The Minister also is very engaged with the World Economic Forum on Digital ASEAN, which will be hosted in Singapore in April. He encouraged Council members to join him for this important initiative. We also discussed 2018 ASEAN TelMin, which he will Chair in the fourth quarter and pledged to support the Council’s engagement, including a plenary session with all the ASEAN Ministers.
While I was in Jakarta, I also had a chance to pay a courtesy call on ASEAN’s new Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi, who is an old friend of mine and knows the Council well. He promised to be supportive of our engagement with ASEAN and will host a meeting with us during the upcoming ASEAN Business Mission on March 12. He will be focused on helping ASEAN achieve its 2025 Blueprint and its Vision 2025 objectives.
In Singapore, I was focused on Singapore’s ASEAN Chair Year and specifically met with officials in the Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Trade and Investment where we discussed our delegations to the ASEAN Finance Ministers & Central Bank Governors Meeting and to the ASEAN Economic Ministers meetings respectively. I also had a chance to meet with Douglas Foo who is a member of Singapore’s three-member delegation to the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC). Singapore’s ASEAN BAC will host the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in November in Singapore. We also extensively discussed how the Council could play a role in this initiative.
At the end of last month, the Council also had a successful Health and Life Science (HLS) Mission to the Philippines, which took place in Manila from January 30-31, and was led by Council Senior VP and Regional Managing Director Amb. Michalak and Dr. Leslie Mancuso, President & CEO of Jhpiego and HLS committee co-chair. The two-day mission featured a luncheon on sustainable healthcare financing with local health associations and a meeting with new Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III, and produced key follow-up items such as a potential MOU with the Philippines Department of Health.
Looking ahead, we have:
- Philippines Business Mission March 6-7: The mission’s themes will be framed within the context of the Government of the Philippines’s major economic policy objectives for 2018, including the passage of the second package of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program; acceleration of the construction of infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build, Build” initiative; and the opening up of economic sectors to greater foreign participation and ownership.
- Mission to the ASEAN Secretariat March 12: As mentioned previously, a meeting with newly-appointed Secretary-General H.E. Lim Jock Hoi has already been confirmed.
- Indonesia Business Mission March 13-15: The mission’s themes will be to maintain and promote FDI; deregulation and regulatory harmonization; and to enhance a vibrant ecosystem to support Indonesia’s development. This timely mission is especially valuable in light of Indonesia’s upcoming 2018 regional elections and 2019 national elections. Please note that the registration deadline is February 27.
- Vietnam Missions: On March 27-29, the Council will be conducting its annual Business Mission to Vietnam. This mission’s theme will be framed around supporting the Government of Vietnam’s efforts to maintain economic restructuring and reform momentum in key sectors such as ICT, agriculture, healthcare and tax structure. Following the annual mission on March 30, the Council will conduct its annual Health & Life Sciences Industry Mission to Vietnam, a more focused mission that engages the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other health-related agencies as part of the Council’s MOU with MOH. The registration deadline for both Vietnam missions is March 13.
- The Council will hold its Annual Business Mission to the Philippines from March 6-7 in Manila. The mission’s themes will be framed within the context of the Government of the Philippines’ major economic policy objectives for 2018, including the passage of the second package of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, acceleration of the construction of infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build, Build” initiative, and the opening of economic sectors to greater foreign participation and ownership. More information on the 2018 Philippines Business Mission can be found here. Contact Riley Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kim Yaeger (email@example.com) if you have any questions.
- The Council is now registering executives for its Annual Mission to the ASEAN Secretariat will take place on Monday, March 12, the day before the commencement of the Indonesia Business Mission. The Council is now registering executives for its annual ASEAN Secretariat Business Mission in Jakarta on March 12, the day before the commencement of the Indonesia Business Mission. The registration deadline is February 26. Click here to register. A meeting with newly-appointed Secretary General H.E. Lim Jock Hoi has already been confirmed. Please contact Matt Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
- The Council is now registering executives for its Annual Business Mission to Indonesia, from March 13-15 in Jakarta. The mission’s themes include maintaining and promoting FDI, deregulation and regulatory harmonization, and enhancing a vibrant ecosystem to support Indonesia’s development. This timely mission is especially valuable in light of Indonesia’s 2018 regional elections and 2019 national elections. Please note that the registration deadline is February 27. To register, please click here. Contact Artha Sirait at email@example.com with any questions.
- The Council is now registering senior-level executives for its Annual Business Mission to Vietnam, which will take place in Hanoi from March 27-29. During the mission, the delegation will engage with the Prime Minister, National Assembly leaders, local business leaders, and Ministries across all sectors. To register, please click click here. Please contact Hai Pham at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- The Council is now registering executives for its Annual Health & Life Sciences Mission to Vietnam, which will take place in Hanoi on March 29-30. This opportunity provides a focused engagement for members with the Vietnam Ministry of Health, other health agencies and key local stakeholders. To register, please click here. The deadline for receipt of registration and mission materials is March 13. The deadline for receipt of registration and mission materials is March 13. Please contact Hai Pham at email@example.com and Ying Hui Tng at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- The Council is now registering executives for its Annual Mission to the ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting (AFMGM) in Singapore April 5-6. To register, please click here. The Council plans to hold its regular consultation with the assembled Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors on ASEAN integration issues, including digital financial innovation, capital markets development, and insurance and addressing emerging risks. The delegation will also hold bilateral meetings with Ministers and Governors and join official AFMGM programming. The Council will also hold several planning calls later this month and in March to plan the Mission and write the consultation paper which the delegation will present at the AFMGM consultation. Please contact Shay Wester at email@example.com or Ian Saccomanno at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- As part of our preparation for the 2018 Senior Executives Business Mission to the Philippines, the Council has requested input from members on recommendations to the Government of the Philippines on the TRAIN 2 tax reform package legislation. The Council expects this tax package to be a priority advocacy area of focus in 2018. Please contact Riley Smith at email@example.com for more information.
- On February 9, the Council submitted comments to the Thai Revenue Department on its Draft Act Amending the Revenue Code to Support Collection of Taxes from e-Business Operators in Respect of Value-Added Tax Collection from Services Provided Abroad. Additional regulations are expected on goods sold from abroad.
- The Council, for the first time, joined a meeting of the ASEAN Working Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems. This regional body is working on the development of regional frameworks for connecting ASEAN’s individual national payment systems. The Council was able to advocate for greater consultative processes with the private sector and proposed future engagements with the group on issues related to cyber security and electronic payment related services.
- The Council met with Malaysia’s Bank Negara to advocate for greater technical transparency in their proposed regulations related to draft regulation on outsourcing and new interoperable credit transfer framework. The Council has requested a follow-up meeting for members with Bank Negara and other Malaysian government entities in March.
- The Council is preparing to submit detailed comments on Draft 15 of Vietnam’s Law on Cybersecurity, highlighting concerns relating to data localization and content regulation. Please contact Matt Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ella Duangkaew at email@example.com.
- Health and Life Sciences Committee conducted an industry mission the Philippines. During the mission, the advocacy agenda included focused on Philippine’s implementation of the ASEAN Medical Device Directive, and best practices for pricing of pharmaceutical products. As a follow-up to the mission, we plan to explore developing an MOU with the Department of Health.
- The Council held a meeting with the Director General of Intellectual Property in Indonesia’s Ministry of Law and Human Rights included advocacy on recommendations on the IRR’s for Indonesia’s IP law and ideas for steps which the GOI could consider taking to help get Indonesia removed from USTR’s Special 301 Priority Watch List.
- Please save the date for the Council's 2018 Business Mission to Singapore May 2-3. The official invitation and registration details will be sent in the coming weeks.
On February 21, a U.S. Congressional Delegation led by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee visited Singapore to develop a better understanding of security and economic issues in both Singapore and the region, including issues affecting U.S. businesses. The U.S. Congressional Delegation participated in a roundtable discussion at the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. Congressman Goodlatte was joined by Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN), Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA), Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO), Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL).
As of February 15, the Council has 153 members, including 72 Corporate members and 81 Chairman’s Council members. Since January 1, we have seen quite a few changes to our roster. New companies to the Council are: APR Energy, Burson-Marsteller, Discovery Network and Nestle Purina Petcare. Additionally, Amazon and Mattel both upgraded to Chairman’s Council.
The Membership Team has just concluded a recruiting trip to Singapore and hopes to have more to report next month.
The ASEAN Foreign Ministers Retreat, the first such meeting under Singapore’s Chairmanship of the regional body, took place on February 6. Read the Press Statement here. On the economic front, the Ministers “agreed on the need to improve market access for ASEAN’s exports, and to spur investment and tourism,” “expressed support for the implementation of the AEC Blueprint to enhance regional integration including to double intra-ASEAN trade between 2017 and 2025,” and “reiterated the need to step up efforts to conclude negotiations on a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.”
On January 24-25, the Council mounted its first-ever Mission to the ASEAN Tourism Ministers’ Meeting (M-ATM) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The five-member delegation met with Chief Executive Lionel Yeo, Singapore Tourism Board; Consul General Jennifer Harghaigh, U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai; Minister Dato Seri Mohamed Nazri, Malaysia Ministry of Tourism and Culture; Minister Weerasak Kowsurat, Thailand Ministry of Tourism and Sports; Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon, Jr., Philippines Department of Tourism; Minister Nguyen Ngoc Thien, Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; and Director Tran Dong Phuong, ASEAN Secretariat.
The 2018 ASEAN Secretariat Business Mission is March 12, the day before the commencement of the Indonesia Business Mission. The registration deadline is February 26. Click here to register. A meeting with newly-appointed Secretary General H.E. Lim Jock Hoi has already been confirmed. Please contact Matt Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or to express interest.
On January 23, the 11 nations participating in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) announced in Tokyo, Japan that a consensus agreement had been reached on all remaining outstanding issues. The CPTPP members also announced that their respective Ministers of Trade intend to sign the final agreement on March 8 in Chile. Once the agreement is signed, it will go into force when six of the 11 members (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam) formally ratify it. Nations like Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan and Vietnam are expected to have fairly smooth ratification processes. Canada and Mexico are likely to remain focused on NAFTA processes in the near term. Malaysia’s ratification process will likely occur after their national elections. In all likelihood, the CPTPP could go live by Q4 of 2018 or Q1 of 2019.
The ASEAN Single Window (ASW) partially launched on January 1, beginning the process of integrating customs clearance systems in ASEAN. ASW began with Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam exchanging certificates of origin (e-ATIGA Form D). Indonesia was delayed until the end of January by a regulatory matter, while Thailand and Vietnam experienced glitches when exchanging data. Brunei, Cambodia and the Philippines expect to be connected by June. In early February, the Philippines announced that initial tests of its system had been successful. Myanmar and Laos are working with development agencies to build basic Form D functionality by the second half of the year, although Laos may be delayed due to technical challenges. Now that exchanges of e-ATIGA Form D has begun, ASEAN will begin adding other forms to the system. Members will begin running test exchanges of the ASEAN Customs Declaration Document (ACDD) over the next few months and a few members will begin testing the e-Phytosanitary certificate by June. Senior officials have also recently endorsed the Electronic Animal Health Message Implementation Guide (MIG) and have received the completed Food Safety Certificate Study. The Food Safety Certificate Study will lay the groundwork for clearing fresh foods through the ASW, which it will begin experimenting with after the e-Phytosanitary certificate is successfully implemented. The successful implementation of this flagship program of ASEAN’s customs integration agenda will be a significant step forward for regional trade integration, moving the ASEAN Economic Community past the lowering of tariff barriers and onto reducing non-tariff barriers and facilitating greater trade.
On January 1, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam became fully integrated members of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Previously, the four countries were exempt from abolishing select tariffs on less-sensitive products which other members had to eliminate at the end of 2015 for a short grace period. The removal of tariffs is not expected to dramatically change the market landscape. At the end of 2015, the four countries had scrapped tariffs on about 91 percent of items, and items subject to the grace period were mostly at 5 percent or less. Moving forward, the AEC will need to focus on removing non-tariff barriers, including ones that have appeared in place of the falling tariffs, to continue to successfully integrate ASEAN into a single market and production base.
On January 19, the ASEAN Trade Facilitation Joint Consultative Committee held its latest meeting in Singapore, which the Council attended with the Joint Business Councils (JBC). The JBCs gave a presentation (available here) on short- and long-term priorities for lowering the costs of trade, including the Council’s proposal for facilitating low-value shipments. The Chair of ATFJCC, Sulaimah Mahmood, acknowledged the importance of working with the private sector. She has tasked the ASEAN Secretariat with compiling a master list of recommendations for the last five years and the ASEAN committees responsible for implementing them. The ATFJCC is developing non-tariff barrier guidelines, on which the private sector is welcome to provide feedback. On self-certification of origin, the discussion of a wider ASEAN self-certification system is almost completed and ASEAN Member States will devote efforts to add it to the ASEAN Trade-In-Goods Agreement (ATIGA).
Defense & Security
- The United States has nearly doubled its presence in this year's Cobra Gold exercise, one of the largest multinational military drills in Southeast Asia that kicked off in Thailand on February 13. The 6,800 U.S. military officers participating, up from last year's 3,600, is Washington's largest contribution to the annual drill since Thailand's military government took power in May 2014. China and India are joining the Cobra Gold exercise for humanitarian assistance projects. In total, more than 11,000 officials from 29 countries, including observers, are participating in the drill.
- On February 5-6, the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Retreat took place in Singapore. During the meeting, the ministers agreed to ramp up cooperation in the fight against terrorism, which they identified as the region's most serious security threat. To read the ADMM joint statement on countering terrorism in ASEAN, please click here. Additionally, the ministers also agreed to conduct the first ASEAN-China maritime exercise to strengthen regional security and had an informal dialogue with Chinese Minister of National Defense General Chang Wanquan, who was in Singapore on a five-day goodwill tour. Since early 2015, China has been proposing joint maritime drills with ASEAN member states in the South China Sea, making the case that drills would jointly solve disputes and control risks, reduce risk of actual conflict, and serve as good practice of the Code of Unexpected Encounters in the Sea (CUES). This only seems to have taken traction now, given the “cooling down” of tensions in the South China Sea, and the rise of larger shared regional concerns such as terrorism and North Korea.
- The recently announced regulation on tax treatment for Gross-Split Production Sharing Contracts (Government Regulation No.53 of 2017) in Indonesia has brought greater clarity and legal certainty to gross-split taxation. The regulation on tax treatment was earlier in a deadlock due to disagreement on whether contractors should be asked to pay taxes during an oil and gas block’s exploitation period. In response, a series of incentives have been included in the new regulation for contractors conducting upstream activities. The Indonesian Government introduced the Gross-Split Production Sharing Contracts (GSPSCs) scheme in January 2017 to relieve persistent pressure on the budget resulting from administering the cost recovery mechanism. The Government hopes that, through the GSPSCs, it will be able to increase its take from the sector, expand upstream business activities and encourage greater investments. However, it remains to be seen if these steps will elicit more interest among oil and gas companies to pursue new investments in the sector. More information on the tax treatment of GSPSCs can be found here.
- With the Vietnamese Government’s issuance last year of key regulations covering solar power, specifically Decision No. 11 (Decision No: 11/2017/QD-TTg) and Circular No. 16 (Circular No: 16/2017/TT-BCT), provincial governments in Vietnam have started crafting guidelines for renewable energy projects in an effort to attract more foreign companies to invest in the industry. Even in the absence of these provincial-level regulations, authorities reportedly have received hundreds of solar energy investment proposals that, if all are approved, would increase Vietnam’s solar power capacity by 15,000 MW by 2030. More information will be available when the national solar power development plan is released later this year. Senior MOIT officials have said that the national solar power development plan will address zoning, land, technical potential, the grid and transmission. More information on the guidelines that Vietnamese provincial governments are crafting for renewable energy projects can be found here.
On January 16, the Council’s Energy Committee held its first Quarterly Call for 2018. During the call we reviewed the Committee's activities in 2017 and discussed advocacy priorities and upcoming engagements as part of the review of the Energy Committee's 2018 Work Plan. Notes from the call can be found here. An updated version of the 2018 Work Plan for the Energy Committee can be found here. If you have any questions about the call or the 2018 Work Plan, please contact Riley Smith at email@example.com.
Over the next few months, the Council’s Energy Committee will be organizing calls for the four working groups that are discussed in the 2018 Energy Committee Work Plan (available here). Those groups are:
- Fossil Fuels
- Power Sector
- Energy Intelligence and Analysis
- Environment and Sustainability
The purpose of the calls will be to discuss advocacy priorities and talking points for each of the working groups. Official invitations will be sent out for the calls later, but if you have any questions about the working groups or would like to submit advocacy priorities and/or talking points, please email Riley Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- On February 6, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Securities Commission Malaysia announced plans to establish a stock market trading link, the Malaysia-Singapore Connect, between Bursa Malaysia and Singapore Exchange by the end of 2018. MAS and SC intend to set up cross-border supervisory and enforcement arrangements and then work with the two exchanges to operationalize the link. It will also cover post-trade arrangements such as clearing and settlement of the traded stocks. Both countries have indicated interest in expanding the initiative to include the rest of the ASEAN stock exchanges. This new bilateral model effectively replaces the ASEAN Trading Link (ATL), which connected Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand since 2012. The ATL was shut down in October 2017 due to a lack of market uptake. The ATL suffered due to its complex set-up and problems with trade settlement, which the new system may be able to solve.
- On February 8, the Council held its first consultation with the ASEAN Working Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems (WC-PSS) in Singapore and joined a meeting between the ASEAN Business Advisory Council and the ASEAN Banking Integration Working Group. The aim of the consultation was to demonstrate what U.S. companies can offer to ASEAN and establish potential dialogue opportunities in areas such as FinTech enablement and regulation, the ASEAN regional payments integration agenda, financial inclusion for consumers and MSMEs, cybersecurity and e-commerce. The presentation slides from the consultation can be found here. The WC-PSS is interested in continuing discussions with the private sector and is developing a new strategic action plan that will highlight areas that Council members may support.
- The Council is now accepting registrations for the annual Mission to the ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting (AFMGM) in Singapore April 5-6. To register, please click here. The Council plans to hold its regular consultation with the assembled Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors on ASEAN integration issues, including digital financial innovation, capital markets development, and insurance and addressing emerging risks. The delegation will also hold bilateral meetings with Ministers and Governors and join official AFMGM programming. The Council will also hold several planning calls in February and March to plan the Mission and write the consultation paper which the delegation will present at the AFMGM consultation. Please contact Shay Wester at email@example.com or Ian Saccomanno at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Food & Agriculture
Commencing January 1, the Philippines began taxing sugar-sweetened beverages at new rates in accordance with the Philippine’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill. The P6 per liter tax on beverages with caloric and non-caloric sweeteners and P12 per liter tax on beverages using High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) have significantly affected how beverage enterprises conduct business in the Philippines. Companies are already limiting HFCS exports from top-supplier China while simultaneously selling remaining, already-purchased HFCS stock to other countries. In the wake of both the taxes and Philippines beverage producers’ reactions to it, China could find itself with an oversupply of HFCS and a smaller market to engage (with the Philippines being China's top importer of HFCS last year, accounting for 50 percent of China's exports in 2017), forcing the country to flood its domestic market with the good. At the same time, the Philippines is estimated to produce 2.27 million tons of raw sugar by August, and the Philippines Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has increased the domestic allocation of locally produced sugar from 80 to 93 percent to meet higher forecasted demand.
In 2017, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand saw similar tax proposals aimed at increasing tax rates on sugar with the purpose of curbing health problems and providing additional revenue streams, often for public health facilities and similar investments. In just the first month since the sugar tax has been implemented in the Philippines, beverage producers have taken immediate steps to change the means by which they obtain sugar for their products. As we see sugar policy develop in the region, and perhaps the realization of these new tax proposals, the Council will continue to monitor how beverage producers adapt to such drastic changes.
The Council’s Food & Agriculture Committee is exploring drafting a joint letter with other trade associations to address recent restrictions on crop protection technology in Thailand. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) is expected to complete its review of three crop protection products before the end of March 2018. On September 21, 2017, the Council transmitted a stand-alone letter to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha registering concern and reinforcing the benefits of international plant science innovations for boosting Thai agricultural productivity. If you would like to provide inputs to this updated letter, please contact Sunita Kapoor at email@example.com.
- Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Indonesia (Jakarta) - Potentially April 2018
- Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Thailand (Bangkok) - Q2 2018
- Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Vietnam (Hanoi) - July 11-12, 2018
- Mission to the 40th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (Vietnam) - October 2018 (TBC)
Health & Life Sciences
On February 11, the Philippines House of Representatives opened floor deliberations on a bill that would require health professionals to exclusively prescribe generic medicines to cut costs. The bill seeks to amend Republic Act 9502, or the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicine Act of 2008. In 2008, the House ceded to the Senate’s hardline position to remove the “generics only” provision of Republic Act 9502 with the agreement that the issue would be revisited in the future. In 1988, the Philippines government passed the “Generics Act of 1988” which required all government health agencies and medical personnel to use generic terminology to describe all drugs and medication in the Philippines, and entrusted the Department of Health to ensure the quality of generic medication nationwide. It was met with significant pushback by the medical community in the Philippines, which questioned the government’s ability to successfully ensure the quality of medication.
In the new “Generics Only” bill, all medical, dental and veterinary practitioners would be included. The bill would also create a drug price regulation board that would set the maximum retail prices of medicines. The board would be able to investigate and resolve complaints about illegal activities under Republic Act 7581, or the Price Act. It would not only have subpoena power in resolving cases, but also be authorized to impose penalties on retailers, importers, manufacturers, traders, distributors and wholesalers. The board’s decisions would be appealable with the Supreme Court.
On February 13, the Council hosted a small group discussion on pharmaceutical pricing policies, covering action items that were completed and outstanding from previous discussions. Additionally, updates of pricing issues across ASEAN countries and possible strategies to address them were also discussed. See here for detailed notes.
The Council is now registering executives for its annual Health & Life Sciences Mission to Vietnam, a focused engagement with the Vietnam Ministry of Health, other health agencies and local stakeholders, on March 29-30 in Hanoi. To register, please click here. The deadline for receipt of registration and mission materials is March 13. If you would like to receive more information, please contact Hai Pham at firstname.lastname@example.org and Ying Hui Tng at email@example.com.
- On February 1, Indonesia’s new regulation on ride-hailing services (Regulation No. 108) came into effect, with an extended one-month transition period. For more details, see our recent ICT Update here.
- On February 1, the Personal Data Protection Commission of Singapore issued a response to the feedback received during a public consultation for the management of personal data, as part of their review of the Personal Data Protection Act 2012. For a detailed summary, see our recent ICT Update here.
- On February 2, Thailand and Laos signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a three-year collaboration on mail delivery, telecom and digital technology. For further details, see our recent ICT Update here.
- On February 2, Indonesia Minister of Communications and Information Technology Rudiantara updated the Council on proposed amendments to Regulation 82/2012. For more information, see our recent Indonesia Update here.
- On February 2, Indonesia’s ICT Minister Rudiantara shared with the Council a new version of the draft Amendment to GR82 (found here in Bahasa Indonesia and English). The Council is urgently seeking input from members on the new draft before it is issued. A draft submission on the new draft Amendment will be circulated shortly. Please contact Artha Sirait at firstname.lastname@example.org and Ella Duangkaew at email@example.com with any questions.
- On February 5, the Parliament of Singapore passed the Cybersecurity Act 2018. The Council submitted joint comments during the public consultation period for the Act in 2017 and met with officials from CSA to discuss the submission. Detailed changes to the Act can be found in our recent ICT Update here.
- On February 9, the Council submitted comments to the Thai Revenue Department on its Draft Act Amending the Revenue Code to Support Collection of Taxes from e-Business Operators in Respect of Value-Added Tax Collection from Services Provided Abroad. If you have any questions, please contact Ella Duangkaew at firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Government of Vietnam has issued an updated version of its Draft Law on Cybersecurity (Draft 15), with an unofficial English translation available here. Please review the Council’s draft submission on the updated Draft Law and send any comments to Matt Solomon at email@example.com. The comments will be submitted following the Tet holiday.
- On March 7, the Council will host a one-day Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) workshop titled "Surabaya SMEs Go Digital and International" in Surabaya, Indonesia. Click here for the workshop agenda and here for sponsorship opportunities. Please contact Vinsensius Kangen at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or to express interest.
In an ongoing effort to boost Singapore’s edge in maritime industry, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport officially launched its Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM) on January 12. Developed by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in partnership with other industry players, the ITM builds on the MPA’s strategic long-term plans to develop Singapore’s next-generation port and strengthen its International Maritime Centre (IMC). This roadmap is only the very first step in the Singaporean government’s long-term plan to develop ITMs for more than 20 sectors, as expressed in Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s Budget speech in March 2017.
Some key strategies laid out in the ITM include:
- Developing a future-ready maritime workforce through skills training programs and career incentives
- Driving growth through productivity enhancements and innovation
- Strengthening connectivity and inter-linkages with adjacent industries to deeper the industry’s maritime cluster
The ITM roadmap aims to make Singapore a global maritime hub for connectivity, innovation, and talent. According to Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pi Min, this will translate to a growth of $4.5 billion in the sector’s real value-add and more than 5,000 jobs by 2025. The maritime sector already contributes seven percent of Singapore’s GDP and employs over 170,000 people. In 2017, its container throughput and cargo capability also saw a significant increase, reflecting improvements in global trade flows. Speaking on the way forward, Minister Lam said: “We not only have to continue to deliver world-class port services… [but] must also capture new growth opportunities and strengthen our value proposition to the world.”
The launch of the ITM also saw the signing of several Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between MPA and various tripartite partners. An MOU signed between Singapore Customs, Singapore Shipping Association, and MPA particularly covers the digitalization of trade and maritime documents such as bill of lading and potential use of blockchain technology. Additionally, another MOU was signed by MPA, the Singapore Shipping Association, and start-up Glee Tree for the development of a robotic process automation technology in the ship agency sector. Successful implementation of this technology will lead to automation in previously manual processes such as data extraction, entry, and validation.
On January 19, officials from the Council, several Council members, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce attended an inter-agency dialogue hosted by the U.S. State Department to discuss the USG’s draft concept paper on U.S.-Japan Cooperation on Third Country Infrastructure Development. The purpose of the dialogue was for the U.S. private sector to provide recommendations and ideas on the types of things which would make such a partnership commercially beneficial to U.S. companies competing for infrastructure project opportunities in Asia. Key highlights and takeaways from the meeting include:
- The Government of Japan’s request to develop a bilateral partnership with the United States emerged out of President Trump's visit to Japan in November 2017 and subsequent statement regarding the Trump Administration’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Policy and several bilateral Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs). Thus, both governments are involved in developing an infrastructure partnership concept.
- During President Trump's visit to Japan, an MOU was signed between OPIC and JBIC and OPIC and NEXI. Click here to access the press release.
- An MOU was also signed between the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). Click here to access the press release.
- The U.S. private sector identified many challenges it faces in competing for infrastructure project opportunities in Asia in relation to Japan. They include:
- The Government of Japan’s use of tied aid financing for projects in third-country markets.
- The lack of transparency of Japanese trading houses in executing projects both as partners and competitors.
On February 7, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah delivered an official speech addressing the major cabinet reshuffle that took place on January 30, following another reshuffle that took place in December 2017. Cabinet reshuffles typically happen every five years in Brunei and therefore caught many by surprise. In his speech, the Sultan expressed his disappointment that some of the dismissed officials were working for their own personal agendas and that some wanted “to conform to the wishes of outsiders and foreigners,” not having Brunei’s best interests in mind. The cabinet shake-up includes the replacement of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Lim Jock Seng; and Energy Minister Mohammad Yasmin – both who were known to be closest to the Sultan. It is also interesting to monitor how Brunei will proceed with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership following Lim’s departure. Key changes in the reshuffle include:
- Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Lim Jock Seng, who served in the post for 12 years, is replaced by Deputy Minister Erywan.
- Second Minister of Finance Abd Rahman, who held the post for 12 years, is replaced by Deputy Minister Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah, who is also the Chairman of the Brunei Economic Development Board.
- Energy and Industry Minister Mohammad Yasmin is replaced by Mat Suny, a former deputy minister of development and former deputy managing director of Brunei Shell Petroleum
- Education Minister Suyoi, who held several ministerial portfolios over the past 12 years, is now replaced by Hamzah, a permanent secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office
- Communications Minister Mustappa is now replaced by Abdul Mutalib, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs.
On January 29, former President of the recently dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sam Rainsy, who has been in exile in Europe since 2015, officially launched the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, in response to the government’s dissolution of the CNRP last November, in the lead up to the general elections in July 2018. The movement calls upon the international community to take action, for Cambodia’s economic partners to put pressure on the government, for citizens to partake in a nationwide non-violent protest, for the Cambodian armed forces to not take action against protestors, and finally for members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to defect from the party. Sam Rainsy said that since the Cambodian Supreme Court delivered its verdict on dissolving the CNRP and banning all 118 of its lawmakers from participating in politics, the party has become paralyzed. This is only exacerbated by the arrest of incumbent CNRP President Kem Sokha on charges of treason last September. The new movement, he claims, will serve to revive the party and put pressure on the government to reverse course ahead of the general elections. Skeptics were quick to point out that Rainsy may be overplaying his hand and that the real on-the-ground impact of the movement will be minimal as it is coming from abroad. Moreover, Sam Rainsy’s political pull has eroded over time, both within the CNRP and throughout Cambodia, given his long absence from the country and Kem Sokha’s growing popular support.
- On January 23, President Joko Widodo held a government meeting to discuss Presidential Regulation No. 91 of 2017, an implementing regulation of the Jokowi administration’s 16th economic policy package aimed at improving the ease of doing business in the country. A National Task Force will be formed, responsible for the development of policies that simplify licensing regulations and address barriers, chaired by the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs. Indonesia will also continue with its licensing regulation reform as well as the standardization of future license applications to be processed through an integrated single submission system under the purview of BKPM.
- Bank Indonesia (BI) Governor Agus is set to retire in May 2018 and several names have emerged as his potential replacements, including Bappenas Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, former Finance Minister Chatib Basri, and BI Deputy Governor Perry Warjiyo. Governor Agus is eligible to serve another term if reappointed, although he has publicly stated that he plans to retire. Traditionally, the outgoing Governor would recommend his replacement for the President to consider, although this is not a requirement. There is also no particular tradition for a BI Governor to come from within BI. Governor Agus himself came from a mixed public-private sector background; he was Finance Minister immediately prior to being appointed Governor. He was also the CEO of the state-owned Bank Mandiri. The new Governor will inherit the policies pioneered by Governor Agus, such as the national payment gateway, and upon finalization of the amended Government Regulation No. 82 of 2012, and the new Governor should have a say in how these policies will be implemented.
The Council is now registering executives for its Annual Business Mission to Indonesia, which will take place in Jakarta from March 13-15. The mission’s themes include maintaining and promoting FDI, deregulation and regulatory harmonization, and enhancing a vibrant ecosystem to support Indonesia’s development. This timely mission is especially valuable in light of Indonesia’s 2018 regional elections and 2019 national elections. Please note that the registration deadline is February 27. To register, please click here. Contact Artha Sirait at email@example.com with any questions.
- On January 16, the second phase of the Lao-Thai Railway Construction began after the signing of a contract between the Railway Department and the ASEAN Engineering Consultant Corp (AEC). Construction of the next phase of the railway must be completed within 46 months and is estimated to cost approximately 235.6 billion kip (US$28.3 million). The second phase of the construction will run 7.5km from Thanalaeng Station in Hadxayfong District, to Vientiane Station in Khamsavath Village, Saysettha District. For more information, see our recent Laos Update here.
- On January 31, it was reported that the Department of Labor Regulation has proposed that the minimum wage should be increased from 900,000 kip per month to 1,100,000 kip per month, to come into effect on May 1 (International Labor Day). These wage increases may impose some cost burdens on companies operating in Laos, however they could be offset by increased purchasing power and consumption that can result from higher wages. For more information, see our recent Laos Update here.
In January 2018, the Malaysian government formed a special committee to seek measurements to curb the spread of fake news amid worries that it would undermine public order and disrupt national security. Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said she hopes to have the committee introduce a new law in time for the next Parliamentary session, which starts on March 5. The Ministry of Communications and Multimedia is also taking separate action to address the issue as officials have said that current laws are inadequate to handle the growing problem posed by fake news. They are considering new amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 to be in line with the current technology and ensure it effectively restricts the spread of fake news. Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak said they would be looking at actions taken by other countries as potential models to suppress the spread of fake news, such as the United Kingdom which recently introduced a new national security communications unit to tackle the problem.
On February 6, Council staff, led by Vice President for Policy Marc Mealy met with Bank Negara (BNM) Deputy Governor Jessica Chew Cheng Lian to follow up with concerns regarding Bank Negara's exposure draft on outsourcing and interoperable credit transfer framework. Both frameworks are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks. The meeting accomplished the goal of rebuilding goodwill between Bank Negara’s new leadership and the Council to enable the development of a yearlong series of engagement opportunities with BNM that will include members. The Council is seeking a follow-up meeting with BNM and other stakeholders for the financial industry later in February. To read our comments on the two proposed regulations, click here for the comments on the outsourcing guidelines and here for our comments on the Framework.
On February 8, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed The Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act, authored by U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), to impose targeted sanctions and travel restrictions on senior Myanmar military officials. The Council’s analysis of the bill can be accessed here. Key provisions in the legislation call for targeted sanctions against senior Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) leaders affiliated with the military’s past and ongoing operations in Rakhine State, including the addition of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and two other generals to the Specifically Designated Nationals (SDN) list, and supporting economic and security sector reform, while encouraging Myanmar’s full transition of power to a civilian government. The Bill would require a majority of the full Senate vote for it to become legislation, and it will be up to Senate Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell to entertain this vote. It is unclear when and if the vote will take place. A companion bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives. On the executive side, President Trump issued an executive order on December 20, imposing visa and economic sanctions on Maj. Gen. Maung Maung Soe per the Global Magnitsky Act for “credible evidence of [his] activities, including allegations against Burmese security forces of extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and arbitrary arrest as well as the widespread burning of villages.”
- The Department of Finance (DOF) submitted the second package of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) to the House of Representatives on January 15. The second package’s two main aims are the gradual reduction of the corporate income tax (CIT) rate from 30 to 25 percent and the rationalization of fiscal incentives available to businesses and investors. The DOF has said that the aim is to streamline where and how fiscal incentives are granted and phase out those incentives that the Government believes are not having a positive impact on the local economy and population. Unlike the first package of the CTRP (the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, which is meant to generate revenue for the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure development program), the second package is meant to be revenue neutral. More information on the second package of the CTRP can be found here.
- On December 22, Malacañang Palace notified the Philippine Congress that President Rodrigo Duterte had vetoed five provisions of Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act. One of the provisions covered the zero rating of sales of goods and services to separate customs territory and tourism enterprise zones (TEZs). Secretary of Finance Carlos Dominguez III stated that vetoing all five provisions would boost revenue collected as a result of TRAIN by close to P90 billion (US$1.8 billion). With the second package of the CTRP focusing on the rationalization of fiscal incentives for investors, the vetoed VAT zero-rating provision is particularly relevant. In the absence of the VAT zero-rating, companies located in economic and tourism enterprise zones would be subject to a 12-percent VAT. Nevertheless, the TRAIN Act maintains the VAT zero-rating for certain transactions. More information on the vetoed provision can be found here.
- More reforms in business regulations can be expected from the Philippines government this year to make government processes more business-friendly and improve the country’s competitiveness. Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez recently said that the government’s interagency task force on Ease of Doing Business is pursuing a “whole of government approach” to promote ease of doing business, where all government entities involved in business regulations will act to simplify government processes. Recent reforms include the implementation of the Company Registration System by the Securities and Exchange Commission in November 2017 and the issuance of a Joint Memorandum Circular directing local government units (LGUs) to streamline the issuance of building permits and certificates of occupancy. The Expanded Anti-Red Tape Act (Senate Bill No. 1311) also continues to make its way through Congress. More information on recent efforts to improve the ease of doing business in the Philippines can be found here.
- On January 31, the Council held its first planning call for the 2018 Philippines Business Mission, featuring H.E. Jose Manuel G. Romualdez, the new Philippine Ambassador to the United States, who provided a briefing on the Philippine Government's economic priorities for 2018. He also gave an update on the current business environment in the Philippines and U.S.-Philippine relations. The notes for the call can be found here.
- On January 23, Department of Finance (DOF) Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua and Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo presented a joint DOF-DTI proposal on the second tax reform package, which is also called the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) - Package 2. The most relevant features of the proposal can be found here (information prepared by the Makati Business Club). A copy of the joint presentation can be found here. Ahead of the 2018 Philippines Business Mission, the Council is requesting member company input on the joint DOF-DTI TRAIN - Package 2 proposal. This input will be used to craft talking points for the mission and will also be included in a letter to the DOF and the Congress of the Philippines conveying the private sector's feedback on the proposal. All member company input will be anonymized. Please send your comments on the proposal for TRAIN - Package 2 to BOTH Riley Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kim Yaeger (email@example.com).
- On January 25, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) announced that it was partnering with 3M to “bring science and technology to the regions.” The five-year partnership involves collaboration on a science innovation program for DOST researchers, access for Philippine Science High School students to 3M’s internship program, and the use of laboratory space. 3M has credited meeting with DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña during the Council’s 2017 Philippines Business Mission for helping to lay the groundwork for the partnership. The official press release announcing the partnership can be found here.
The Council will hold its annual Business Mission to the Philippines from March 6-7 in Manila. The mission’s themes will be framed within the context of the Government of the Philippines’ major economic policy objectives for 2018, including the passage of the second package of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, acceleration of the construction of infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build, Build” initiative, and the opening of economic sectors to greater foreign participation and ownership. More information on the 2018 Philippines Business Mission can be found here. Contact Riley Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kim Yaeger (email@example.com) if you have any questions.
- During an event on January 12 to officially launch Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship for 2018, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Singapore would use its chairmanship to focus on strengthening ASEAN’s collective resilience and promoting innovation within the economies of ASEAN member states. Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang elaborated on Prime Minister Lee’s points during a speech at the Singapore Business Federation’s (SBF) ASEAN Networking Night on January 17. In his speech, Minister Lim laid out five areas on which Singapore will focus in 2018. These five areas are: Innovation and the digital economy; Facilitating seamless trade and movement of goods within ASEAN; Deepening services integration and reducing impediments to investment; Cultivating a conducive regulatory environment, especially with regard to energy efficiency and renewable energy; Deepening ties between ASEAN member countries and their external partners, while still preserving ASEAN’s centrality. More information on Singapore’s focus areas for its 2018 ASEAN Chairmanship year can be found here.
- The Healthcare Regulation Group (HRG) of the Ministry of Health (MOH) is reviewing the current Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act (PHMCA) and replacing it with the new Healthcare Services Act (HCSA). Healthcare providers will now be licensed based on the types of services they provide, rather than on physical premises. Telemedicine and app-based services will be licensed under the bill and regulated accordingly. Licensees will be required to contribute to the National Electronic Health Record (NEHR), which aims to improve continuity of care and patient safety nationwide. More information on the HCSA can be found here.
- On February 5, the Parliament of Singapore passed the Cybersecurity Act 2018. The act is aimed at strengthening the protection of computer systems that provide essential services against cyber-attacks. Computer systems directly involved in the provision of essential services for national security, defense, foreign relations, economy, public health, public safety or public order are referred to as Critical Information Infrastructure (CII). The Cybersecurity Act seeks to establish a legal framework for the oversight and maintenance of national cybersecurity in Singapore, with an emphasis on the proactive and routine protection of CII against cyber-attacks. It authorizes the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) to prevent and respond to cybersecurity threats and incidents, as well as establish a licensing framework for cybersecurity service providers. More information on the Cybersecurity Bill 2018 can be found here.
- On February 5, the administration of President Donald Trump officially withdrew K.T. McFarland’s nomination to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. McFarland was first nominated for the position by the White House in May 2017. Even though she was voted out of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in mid-September, her nomination did not come for a vote in the full Senate, reportedly due to concerns over testimony that she gave to the Committee during her nomination hearing in July. More information on the withdrawal of K.T. McFarland’s nomination to be the U.S. Ambassador to Singapore can be found here.
In 2017, the Council submitted joint comments (prepared with BSA | The Software Alliance) during the public consultation period on Approaches to Managing Personal Data in the Digital economy, organized by the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC). The Council's joint submission with BSA | The Software Alliance is available here. On February 1, the PDPC issued its response to feedback received through the public consultation, available here.
- Please save the date for the Council's 2018 Business Mission to Singapore, May 2-3. The official invitation and registration details will be sent out in the coming weeks.
- On February 21, a U.S. Congressional Delegation led by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee visited Singapore to develop a better understanding of security and economic issues in both Singapore and the region, including issues affecting U.S. businesses. The U.S. Congressional Delegation participated in a roundtable discussion at the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. Congressman Goodlatte was joined by Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN), Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA), Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO), Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL).
- On January 12, the Bank of Thailand raised the maximum limit on international money transfers allowed for each customer for non-commercial bank business, from Bt200,000 to Bt800,000 (US$25,352) per day. For more information, see our recent Thailand Update here.
- On January 23, Ambassador Virachai Plasai was confirmed by the Thai Cabinet to be the 45th Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United States. For more information, see our recent Thailand Update here.
- On January 25, the Finance Ministry announced it will implement a tax break for SMEs. The measure will go into effect on April 1. For more information, see our recent Thailand Update here.
- On January 30, the Cabinet approved daily minimum wage increases that will go into effect on April 1. The increases will vary by province and will range between 5 baht and 22 baht. For more information, see our recent Thailand Update here.
- On February 7, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff met with Thailand’s Chief of Defense, Defense Minister and Prime Minister to advance military-to-military relations between the United States and Thailand. More information will be provided in a separate Update.
- On February 8, the Thai Parliament passed legislation geared towards attracting investment to Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). More information will be provided in a separate Update.
- On January 22, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand released a new draft of the Personal Data Protection Bill (found here in Thai). For more information, see our recent Thailand Update here.
- Please save the date for the 2018 Thailand Business Mission on June 27-28, 2018 in Bangkok. Contact Ella Duangkaew at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Since the inception of Vietnam's Agricultural Restructuring Plan (ARP) in June 2013, Vietnam has worked to boost exports, use more technologically-advanced equipment, and encourage investments in its agriculture sector. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong noted in a recent working session that Vietnam’s agriculture sector still faces competition and production challenges that can be stemmed through more investment in infrastructure and irrigation, a better developed market, and large-scale production of goods. In accordance with this restructuring, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) aims to export US$40 billion worth of goods to countries that have seen a high demand for Vietnamese goods in recent years, such as China, the EU and Japan. Vietnam also hopes to continue strengthening the relationship between farmers and businesses to create a stronger production chain.
Vietnam’s renewed commitment in 2018 to create a more sustainable, flexible agricultural sector comes after a successful past few years. Per capita income for farmers has increased significantly since the implementation of the 2013 project, seeing a jump from US$830 in 2012 to US$1,285 in 2016. Exports of agricultural, forestry and fishery goods in 2017 raised US$33 billion, and last month alone created US$3.09 billion in revenue for Vietnam. This year, Vietnam will try to continue its successes by expanding trade to new markets in Asia and the Middle East, retaining positive trade relations with ASEAN countries, and focusing on removing trade barriers in American and European markets. According to various analysts, failure to comply with regulations of food safety is the biggest barrier for Vietnamese exporting businesses of agricultural products and foodstuffs to the United States. During the upcoming Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Vietnam (July 2018), members may highlight opportunities to collaborate with MARD on elevating the food safety regime of Vietnam’s agriculture sector, particularly on meeting the stringent requirements on packaging, packing, traceability, quarantine, sampling and inspection.
The Government of Vietnam has issued an updated version of its Draft Law on Cybersecurity (Draft 15), with an unofficial English translation available here. Please review the Council’s draft submission on the updated Draft Law and send any comments to Matt Solomon at email@example.com. The comments will be submitted following the Tet holiday.
The Council is now registering senior-level executives for its annual Business Mission to Vietnam, which will take place in Hanoi from March 27-29. During the mission, the delegation will engage with the Prime Minister, National Assembly leaders, local business leaders, and Ministries across all sectors. To register, please click here. The deadline for receipt of registration and mission materials is March 13. If you would like to receive more information, please contact Hai Pham at firstname.lastname@example.org.