President's Newsletter - April 2019

Alexander C. Feldman
Alexander C. Feldman
President & CEO
US-ASEAN Business Council

Dear Members,

For all our friends in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, I hope you had a very happy Khmer New Year, Pi Mai, Thingyan and Songkran!

Since my last newsletter, we have seen two milestone elections in ASEAN.  On March 24, Thailand held its first elections in eight years.   Just over three weeks later, Indonesia held the world’s largest presidential election in a single day on April 17, with over 81 percent of the electorate voting.   

So far, preliminary results of the Thai elections show Palang Pracharat, the party closely affiliated with the current administration, winning the popular vote.  However, the most parliamentary seats in the directly elected Lower House went to the Pheu Thai Party, leaving both parties currently claiming the right to form a new government.  Unofficial results of the first election in eight years have also given a glimpse into regional, urban, rural and generational preferences on issues and parties.  We can expect to see official results will May 9, with the coronation of Rama X King Maha Vajiralongkorn taking place from May 4-6, and a new coalition government likely forming in the first half of June.

The Council was on the ground shortly after these elections, with our mission to the ASEAN Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ Meetings in Chiang Rai, Thailand from April 3-5.  For the 20th consecutive year, Council held its annual lunch with the ten ASEAN Finance Ministers and the ten ASEAN Central Bank Governors on April 5, focusing on Cybersecurity, Sustainable Finance, Digital Finance and attracting international investment to ASEAN.

Last week, Indonesia’s democratic elections involved 193 million eligible voters heading to nearly 810,000 polling stations, over 17,000 islands in a single day.  For the first time, voters simultaneously selected five levels of government including the president, vice president and national Parliament.  A day after the election, the Council hosted a welcome luncheon for Ambassador Mahendra Siregar, who pointed out the unprecedented levels of voter turnout, at about 81 percent, with strong participation particularly among Millennial voters.  The “quick count” shows President Jokowi as the likely victor, but Indonesia’s General Elections Commission states that official results will be progressively released from April 25 to May 22.  It also looks likely that President Jokowi will begin his second term with a friendly legislature as PDIP and other aligned parties won the majority of seats in the Indonesian Parliament.

As Singapore Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing noted at our high-level luncheon last month in Washington, both of these elections have an important role in the timeline for completion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) talks.  Minister Chan, who shared his optimism about the conclusion of RCEP by the end of the year, said that progress would become much clearer in May, after elections in Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and India have concluded.

Next month, we will also see mid-term elections in the Philippines.  On May 13, Filipinos will cast their votes for Senators, members of the House of Representatives and local officials from Governor to municipal councilor; overseas absentee voting has already begun.  Observers view this as a litmus test of President Duterte’s enduring popularity through his brand of strong law enforcement.  This is also a particularly important mid-term ballot in charting the country’s course towards greater liberalization and economic reform.  A new Senate may tip the balance in favor of charter change and potentially see a shift to federalism and lifting of Filipino ownership reservations in the Philippine constitution.  A new Congress is also key to funding the President’s flagship Build Build Build Program.  

This morning, in Singapore, the Prime Minister’s Office announced changes in the Cabinet effective May 1, with the notable promotion of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat to Deputy Prime Minister.  His concurrent designation as Finance Minister and DPM ensures continuity in the Council’s engagement with him.  Additionally, according to the announcement, Mr. Teo Chee Hean and Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam will relinquish their appointments as Deputy Prime Ministers.  They will be appointed Senior Ministers and remain in the Cabinet.  Mr. Teo will continue as Coordinating Minister for National Security and Mr. Tharman will be re-designated as Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, continuing to advise the Prime Minister on economic policies.  

In Washington, D.C. this month, the Council was pleased to host a special visit from Vietnam’s Chairman of the Office of the Government, Minister Mien Tai Dung.  Chairman Dung is Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s Chief of Staff and one of the most influential members of his cabinet, serving as the Prime Minister’s right-hand man in driving reform and efficiency in ministries, resulting in transformative growth in public and private sectors.  The Chairman has demonstrated his readiness to engage with business, specifically with the Council, and is expected to hold even greater responsibilities in the coming years.

Vietnam is gearing up for a visit from Vietnamese President and Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong to Washington which may happen as soon as July.  President and General Secretary Trong was invited to come to Washington by President Trump during President Trump’s February visit to Hanoi.  Besides Chairman Dung’s visit in April, the Chairman of the Communist Party’s Economic Committee, former Central Bank Governor Nguyen Van Binh, also visited Washington this month.  Minister of Public Security To Lam is in Washington this week and Deputy Prime Minister & Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh will visit in the coming weeks.

Malaysia Minister of International Trade and Industry YB Datuk Darell Leiking also made an introductory visit to the United States this month.  During his visit, Minister Leiking announced a Q2 workshop for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) conducted in close collaboration between the Council and Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).

The Council was pleased also to host Lao PDR Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Thongphane Savanphet during his visit to Washington this month, and we look forward to Laos’ ongoing leadership as TELMIN Chair this year and as ASEAN lead for the U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue until 2021.

Our next major engagement is our Business Mission to Singapore from May 8 - 9.  The Council has sent an invitation and is now seeking delegates for this mission.  After that, the Council will hold its annual Mission to the ASEAN Customs Directors General Meeting, from June 11-13 in Vientiane, Laos.

Finally, I want to highlight a very special opportunity to help promote a better understanding of the importance of ASEAN to the United States and the United States to ASEAN.  I am pleased to let you know that sponsorship is still open for the fourth edition of the “ASEAN Matters for America: America Matters for ASEAN” publication.  "ASEAN Matters" highlights the essential importance of ASEAN to America’s economic, trade, investment, strategic, political and people-to-people interests.  Since its first release, "ASEAN Matters" has proved to be one of the most cited studies by both U.S. and ASEAN government officials.  With the seating of the 116th Congress, the timing of this edition could not be better.  It is widely distributed in ASEAN and the United States and copies are given to the ASEAN leaders and Ministers, every member of the U.S. Congress, every American Governor as well as extensively distributed within the Executive Branch of the US Government.  ASEAN and U.S. Embassies receive multiple copies for further distribution.   In partnership with the East-West Center and the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, the Council is launching a revised and expanded publication in June.  Please contact Kathi Lunardi at klunardi@usasean.org to learn more.

Highlights

Looking Ahead

  • 2nd 2019 ASEAN-U.S. Digital Policy Consultative Forum (DCPF), May 6:  The 2nd DCPF will take place in Yangon and follows the first 2019 DPCF held on April 8 in Manila.
  • Singapore Business Mission, May 8-9:  The Council is registering senior-level executives for its annual Business Mission to Singapore.  For more information, please contact Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez at lalmonte@usasean.org.
  • 2019 ASEAN Multi-stakeholder (OTT) Dialogue, May 16:  The Dialogue, held in Singapore, aims to provide a platform for ASEAN telecommunication regulators, OTT service providers and network service providers to exchange views on the topic of OTT service management and regulation.
  • Both the 2019 Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Vietnam (planned for April 11-12) and the ASEAN Safe, Nutritious Food forum in Vietnam (planned for April 10-12) will be rescheduled due to timing conflicts with the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, with new dates coming soon.  For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org and Hai Pham at hpham@usasean.org.
  • Malaysian SME Workshop, Q2:  The Council and Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) are organizing a workshop on Industry 4.0’s potential for Malaysian SMEs with Minister YB Datuk Darell Leiking officiating the event.  We expect around 250 SMEs to attend the workshop, held in Kuala Lumpur in the second quarter of 2019.  Sessions on digital transformation, global value chain, e-commerce and digital payment will be some of the topics of discussion along with consultation sessions between American private sector representatives and local SME owners.

Advocacy

  • In recent years, the Council has expanded its advocacy efforts with the Government of Myanmar (GOM) to implement economic reforms to enable U.S. businesses to increase their trade and investment activities to support inclusive economic growth.  Given the many ways a domestic insurance industry can catalyze new investments in social safety nets, infrastructure and job creation, we were pleased when the GOM announced that its domestic life insurance industry would be liberalized in 2019.  The Council closely monitored the GOM’s reform process, gathered intelligence on the competitive environment, and communicated the experiences and benefits neighboring ASEAN countries secured when they allowed American insurances companies to invest in their life insurance industries.  On April 5, five foreign insurance companies were granted licenses to establish 100-percent owned operations in the country, with one license going to a member of the Council, Chubb Insurance. By selecting Chubb, the Government of Myanmar has sent a positive signal that it sees value in the benefits of American firms investing in Myanmar.
  • On March 13, the Council held a multi-stakeholder meeting with Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health to discuss how the private sector can support the Ministry in achieving its global, regional and country-level anti-microbial resistance (AMR) objectives.  Companies at the event walked through examples of their current AMR offerings, which range across surveillance, stewardship, and education and awareness building.  Moving forward, the Council will continue to serve as a conduit for private sector support for the Ministry.  Companies interested in joining this effort should contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org.
  • From April 3-5, the Council led a mission to the 5th ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting (AFMGM) in Chiang Rai, Thailand.  The press release for the mission can be found here and the Joint Statement for the AFMGM can be found here.
  • On April 8, the Council hosted its first Digital Policy Consultative Forum alongside the 1st TELSOM-ATRC Leaders’ Retreat in Manila.  For more information, see our press release here.
  • On April 9, the Council submitted comments to the Government of Indonesia on Indonesia’s Personal Data Protection Bill.  Please contact Angga Antagia at aantagia@usasean.org for more information.
  • The Council is seeking member comments on the latest draft of the Government of Vietnam’s decree (released March 15) to amend Decree 06/2016 (OTT Regulation).  Please contact Vu Tu Thanh at tvu@usasean.org and Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org to submit comments, or with any questions or for a copy of the decree.  
  • The Council has prepared its second draft industry submission on the Government of Singapore's Proposed Converged Competition Code for Media and Telecommunication Markets ("Converged Code").  Please contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org to provide additional feedback, or for a copy of the submission, or for any questions.  
  • On February 25, the Government of Singapore released a Data Portability Discussion Paper considering adding data portability requirements as part of their ongoing review of the 2012 Personal Data Protection Act.  Please contact Jamie Lim at jlim@usasean.org or Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org if you are interested in submitting comments.
  • The Council transmitted a letter to Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) earlier this month following the implementation of a regulation on grains import that is a technical barrier to trade, and we plan to convene a meeting between U.S. industry representatives and MARD/PPD officials in Vietnam as soon as possible to discuss mutual interests in Vietnam's plant protection and imported grains requirements.  For more information, contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org.
  • In March, the Council submitted a joint advocacy letter to the Indonesian Ministry of Manpower calling for fairer treatment of foreign workers.  Following the submission, the Council and other associations engaged with the Office of the Vice President, meeting Sofyan Wanadi and Wijayanto of the Expert Staff, and Maruli of the Ministry of Manpower.  During the meeting, they stipulated that there will be an effective and fast mechanism provided by the Ministry to add more industries and positions on the list, considering that the list will be flexible and open-ended.  Moreover, the Ministry plans to establish a special committee to ensure the process goes smoothly.  Please contact Angga Antagia at aantagia@usasean.org for more information.
  • Following the previous industry submission on the Indonesian Circular Letter for the Implementation of Ministerial Reg. 39/2018, the Indonesia Patent Office further welcomes industry inputs on the Ministerial Regulation 39/2018 related to compulsory licensing for patented products that do not meet the postponement criteria.  Please contact Angga Antagia at aantagia@usasean.org for more information.

Relationship Building

  • Earlier this month, the Council held a roundtable, reception and dinner in honor of Minister Mai Tien Dung, Chairman of the Office of the Government of Vietnam, in Washington, DC.  The roundtable offered members the opportunity to continue discussions on issues raised during the Council’s Vietnam Business Mission last month, including topics related to Vietnam’s energy security and cooperation, the cybersecurity and OTT decrees, customs and logistics issues, automotive policies, health opportunities, and innovation and e-commerce in the food, beverage and agriculture sector.  During the dinner, both U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish and Minister Dung highlighted two common points in their remarks - the importance of the U.S.-Vietnam trade and investment relationship, and the Vietnamese Government’s commitment to creating fair and favorable conditions for American companies exporting, investing, manufacturing and doing business in Vietnam.  Next year will also be an auspicious year for Vietnam, as 2020 marks both Vietnam’s Chairmanship of ASEAN and the 25th anniversary of the normalization of U.S.-Vietnam relations.  For more information, see our press release here.
  • The Council co-hosted a roundtable luncheon for Minister of International Trade and Industry YB Datuk Darell Leiking during his first visit to Washington on April 1.  It was a positive exchange that allowed about 25 member company representatives to introduce their operations in Malaysia to the Minister and raise several topics impacting the business environment, including IP, standards and the digital economy.  For more information, see our press release here.

Membership

We are pleased to welcome Rockwell Automation to the Council as of April 1.  Rockwell Automation has joined us at the Corporate level, bringing membership to a historic high of 164 members.  The Council now has 75 Corporate members and 89 Chairman’s Council members.  We look forward to 2019 continuing to be a record-breaking year for membership.

Regional Highlights

CPTPP

Major Developments

  • Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) has released a decision on plans for the CPTPP’s implementation, delegating tasks and establishing deadlines for relevant MOIT agencies, which will also be responsible for ensuring the competitiveness of Vietnam’s domestic businesses.  MOIT also plans to disseminate information relevant to CPTPP over various media channels to inform businesses of its details.  According to Viet Nam News, plans will involve the drafting of legal documents covering export-import management and trace of origin and competitiveness procedures.  These will be implemented over two phases, the first launched in 2019 and the second initiated from 2020 - 2025.  In addition, MOIT will help coordinate and participate in activities of the CPTPP Commission and sub-committees, as well as other tasks within the framework of the trade agreement.  Recent reports indicate that Vietnam’s exports to CPTPP markets are already growing at a faster rate this year in comparison to 2018.
  • On March 18, the Ministry of Commerce announced that Thailand would postpone its application to join the CPTPP until its new government is in place.  The decision more likely stems from the current government’s prudency to hand negotiations over to the next government, which will have final veto power over Thailand’s CPTPP entry, rather than a fundamental disagreement with accession or public opposition to it.  For more information, see our recent Thailand Update here.

View the Council's latest CPTPP updates

Industry Highlights

Customs

Major Developments

  • Datuk Paddy Abd Halim has been appointed Director-General of the Royal Malaysian Customs Department, effective April 1.  Datuk Paddy was formerly the Deputy Director General of Malaysia Customs and is familiar with the Council’s work.  The Council is exploring opportunities for member companies to engage Datuk Paddy soon. 
  • Indonesia's Finance Ministry has retracted Ministerial Regulation No. 210/2018 on tax treatment for e-commerce transactions.  The Regulation, which was meant to be enforced on April 1, mandates online e-commerce platforms to collect taxes on online transactions and information such as tax identification and personal identity numbers. The Finance Ministry's decision came amid confusion from the e-commerce platforms and the public on how rules would be applied.

Advocacy

On February 25 the Council, in partnership with the ASEAN Customs Enforcement & Compliance Working Group (CECWG), organized a workshop on “Forging an Effective Partnership to Tackle Illicit Trade and Counterfeits.”  The workshop saw participation from 14 private sector companies and nine ASEAN Customs Administrations.  The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, International Trademark Association and Pharmaceutical Security Institute also attended to share their expertise.  The full report of the workshop can be found here.  For more information, please contact Michaela Wong (mwong@usasean.org) and Shay Wester (swester@usasean.org).

Looking Ahead

Mission to the 2019 ASEAN Customs Directors General Meeting, June 11-13:  Customs & Trade Facilitation Committee Calls will be scheduled in the following weeks to kickstart planning for the Mission.  Please contact Michaela Wong at mwong@usasean.org and Shay Wester at swester@usasean.org if you have any questions.

View the Council's latest Customs updates

Defense & Security

Major Developments

On April 9, the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship carrying helicopters and F-35B short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) fighter jets, was spotted in waters “near the Scarborough Shoal,” according to a report by the Philippines’ ABS-CBN News.  Bloomberg reported that the Wasp joined the annual joint Exercise Balikatan with the Philippines this month.  The Wasp did not pass within 25 nautical miles of the shoal, according to a U.S. defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.  The distance suggests that the ship was not conducting a so-called freedom of navigation operation, a practice that the United States uses to assert international sailing rights within 12 nautical miles of countries’ shores.  Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a briefing in Beijing on April 10 that he hopes “non-regional forces don’t stir up troubles in the South China Sea.”

View the Council's latest Defense & Security updates

Energy

Major Developments

  • On March 8, President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11234 (available here) into law, establishing an Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop (EVOSS) digital online payments system.  EVOSS is designed to streamline the permit-issuing process for power generation, transmission and distribution projects and also applies to government agencies, including local government units and government-owned or controlled corporations.  More information on EVOSS can be found here.
  • The state-run Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has stated that it will hold an auction between April and June of 2019 to find a supplier for imported liquefied natural gas (LNG).  Bidders are asked to submit documents by April 18, a shortlist will be announced at the end of April, and the EGAT board will approve the auction process in early May.  The winner of the auction is to be announced in June.  EGAT expects its first shipment of LNG in September.

Advocacy

  • On April 4, the Energy Committee held the first in the Council's "Energy Trends in Southeast Asia" roundtable series.  Dr. Amy Searight, Senior Adviser and Director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, provided a briefing on how past, recent and coming elections in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, respectively, could affect these countries' energy policies and sectors.  The second roundtable in the series will take place on May 9 and feature a briefing on Asia EDGE by Melissa Simpson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources' Energy Transformation Office.  More details will be sent out soon.
  • On April 16, the Energy Committee held its Quarterly Committee Call.  During the call the Committee reviewed the 2019 Work Plan (available here) and discussed the Committee's priorities for the year.  Special attention was paid to how to best engage the U.S. Government both in Washington, DC and in Southeast Asia on the Asia EDGE initiative.

View the Council's latest Energy updates

Financial Services

Major Developments

  • A recent interpretation in life insurance regulations have determined that expenses on claims payments to policyholders cannot be charged as standard deductible expenses on tax returns.  The Council is working with local associations and Chambers for advocacy efforts on this reinterpretation, and joined courtesy meetings proposing clarification with related governments official including Financial Authority (OJK) Fiscal Policy Agency (BKF) and Directorate General (DG) of Tax.  On April, 8, DG Tax issued Circular Letter No. SE-08/PJ/2019 regarding the explanation on how to calculate bookkeeping.  However, industry still seeks clarification on whether the implementation of this circular letter aligns with the purpose that claims payments to policyholders are allowed to be charged as deductible expenses, particularly when referred to during tax audit processes. 
  • Thai authorities will scrutinize entrepreneurs receiving cash from business activities more vigorously than those opting to register via PromptPay, according to the Bank of Thailand, in efforts to enhance transparency.  Business owners or merchants who avoid payment via the PromptPay money transfer platform will be monitored by relevant authorities more closely than those who offer online payment, said Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob.  Business operators had raised concerns over taxation and avoiding transactions via PromptPay following the enforcement of the E-payment Act on March 21.
  • The Prime Minister of Vietnam recently issued Decision No. 242, approving Vietnam's Restructuring Plan of the insurance business market until 2020, oriented towards 2025, following the final proposal of the Ministry of Finance's Insurance Supervisory Authority of Vietnam.  The Plan sets out overarching objectives, including developing a safe, sustainable and efficient insurance market that meets the diversified insurance demands and ensures social security, and enabling insurance enterprises to possess strong financial capacity, management capacity of international standards and competitiveness within the nation and region.

Advocacy

  • In recent years, the Council has expanded its advocacy efforts with the Government of Myanmar (GOM) to implement economic reforms to enable U.S. businesses to increase their trade and investment activities to support inclusive economic growth.  Given the many ways a domestic insurance industry can catalyze new investments in social safety nets, infrastructure and job creation, we were pleased when the GOM announced that its domestic life insurance industry would be liberalized in 2019.  The Council closely monitored the GOM’s reform process, gathered intelligence on the competitive environment, and communicated the experiences and benefits neighboring ASEAN countries secured when they allowed American insurances companies to invest in their life insurance industries.  On April 5, five foreign insurance companies were granted licenses to establish 100 percent-owned operations in the country, with one license going to a member of the Council, Chubb Insurance. By selecting Chubb, the Government of Myanmar has sent a positive signal that it sees value in the benefits of American firms investing in Myanmar.
  • From April 3-5, the Council led a delegation of 16 companies operating in the Financial Services sector to the 5th ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting (AFMGM) in Chiang Rai, Thailand.  The Council met with senior officials to discuss financial sustainability, enabling digital finance, cybersecurity, and attracting foreign investment to ASEAN.  During the mission, the Council also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on April 4 with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ABAC), formalizing collaboration between the Council, ABAC Financial Services Working Group and the EU-ASEAN Business Council.  The official meetings resulted in increased partnership opportunities in financial integration and liberalization, as well as improved trade and investment facilitation.  The press release for the mission can be found here and the Joint Statement for the AFMGM can be found here.

View the Council's latest Financial Services updates

Food & Agriculture

Major Developments

  • Following reports at the end of March that the Vietnam Plant Protection Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) planned to ban the import of glyphosate-based herbicides following the San Francisco federal court verdict related to the agrochemical “Roundup,” on April 10 MARD officially announced it had removed glyphosate from the list of approved pesticides in the country.  This decision to halt imports will go into effect in 60 days, and the ban on domestic use will go into effect in one year.  Following Vietnam’s earlier announcement, the United States, Germany, Canada and Australia had sent requests to Vietnam to follow a science-based approach in line with international commitments.
  • Malaysia’s Customs Department announced earlier in March that it will delay an excise duty on packaged sweetened beverages until July 1, 2019.  Customs Director General Datuk Seri T. Subroniam stated that the delay is intended to allot enough time to ensure industry compliance with the new mandate.  Mr. Subroniam affirmed that the delay would provide the Customs Department enough time to “carry out roadshows and issue licenses to sweetened beverage manufacturers under the Excise Act 1976.”

Advocacy

  • The Council has been working with the U.S. grains industry on an issue that is affecting U.S. grains trade with Vietnam.  On March 1, Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) implemented a regulation on grains import that is a technical barrier to trade - a zero tolerance policy on traces of Canadian Thistle in grains shipments entering Vietnam, requiring processing before the shipment enters Vietnam and re-exportation if traces are found.  The Council transmitted a letter to MARD earlier this month following the policy implementation to offer its assistance in working through this issue with PPD officials.  The Council also plans to convene a meeting between U.S. industry representatives and MARD/PPD officials in Vietnam as soon as possible to discuss mutual interests in Vietnam's plant protection and imported grains requirements.

Looking Ahead

Both the 2019 Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Vietnam (planned for April 11-12) and the ASEAN Safe, Nutritious Food forum in Vietnam (planned for April 10-12) will be rescheduled due to timing conflicts with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, with new dates coming soon.  For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org and Hai Pham at hpham@usasean.org.

View the Council's latest Food & Agriculture updates

Health & Life Sciences

Advocacy

  • From March 14-15, the Council led a delegation of 13 Health & Life Sciences (HLS) companies on our fourth annual HLS Industry Mission to Vietnam.  The delegation met with top officials in the Vietnam Ministry of Health (MOH), Vietnam Social Security, National Assembly Committee on Social Issues, working-level officials from multiple MOH departments as well as a major private hospital and the U.S. Embassy-Hanoi team.  The mission report can be found here.
  • On March 13, the Council held a multi-stakeholder meeting with Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health to discuss how the private sector can support the Ministry in achieving its global, regional and country-level anti-microbial resistance (AMR) objectives.  Companies present walked through examples of their current AMR offerings, which range across surveillance, stewardship, and education and awareness building.  Moving forward, the Council will continue to serve as a conduit for private sector support for the Ministry.  Companies interested in joining this effort should contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org.

View the Council's latest Health & Life Sciences updates

ICT

Major Developments

  • On April 8, Malaysia’s lower house of Parliament passed the Service Tax (Amendment) Bill 2019, which will impose a 6 percent tax on foreign-registered digital service providers, to start on January 1, 2020.  For more information, see our recent ICT Update here.
  • Indonesia’s Ministry of Finance has revoked a regulation on taxing e-commerce transactions under Finance Ministerial Regulation (FMR) No. 210/2018, which was originally signed into law on December 31, 2018 and scheduled for enforcement on April 1, 2019.  For more information, see our recent ICT Update here.
  • As of March 20, Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) released Version 5 of its Draft Decree to amend the January 18, 2016 Decree No. 06 06/2016/NDCP on the management, provision and use of radio and television services (Decree No. 06).  For more information, see our ICT Update here.
  • Over the course of two sessions in January and February, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) endorsed a series of amendments to the Electronic Transaction Act (ETA).  For more information, see our ICT Update here.

Advocacy

  • On April 8, the Council hosted its first Digital Policy Consultative Forum alongside the 1st TELSOM-ATRC Leaders’ Retreat in Manila, the Philippines.  For more information, see our press release here.
  • The Council is seeking member comments on the latest draft version of Vietnam’s decree to amend Decree 06/2016 (OTT Regulation), released March 15.  Please contact Vu Tu Thanh at tvu@usasean.org and Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org with any questions or for a copy of the decree.
  • The Council has prepared its second draft industry submission on Singapore's Proposed Converged Competition Code for Media and Telecommunication Markets ("Converged Code"). Please contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org for a copy of the submission, or for any questions.
  • On April 9, the Council submitted comments to Indonesia’s Personal Data Protection Bill.  Please contact Angga Antagia at aantagia@usasean.org for more information.
  • On March 6, the Council submitted comments on best practices for Indonesia’s draft e-commerce regulations.  For more information, please contact Mario Masaya at mmasaya@usasean.org.
  • On February 25, Singapore released a Data Portability Discussion Paper considering adding data portability requirements as part of their ongoing review of the 2012 Personal Data Protection Act.  Please contact Jamie Lim at jlim@usasean.org or Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org if you are interested in submitting comments.

Looking Ahead

  • Financial Sector Cybersecurity Meeting, April 23:  Hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.  For more information or for any questions, please contact Mario Masaya at mmasaya@usasean.org.
  • Regional ICT CEO Lunch, April 26:  The lunch intends to provide the Asia-Pacific or ASEAN CEOs of our ICT Committee members with a casual platform to discuss digital economy issues and the work that their respective companies are doing within the Council.  Please reach out to Jamie Lim at jlim@usasean.org to express interest.
  • 2nd 2019 ASEAN-U.S. Digital Policy Consultative Forum (DCPF), May 6:  The 2nd DCPF will take place in Yangon and follows the first 2019 DPCF held on April 8 in Manila.
  • 2019 ASEAN Multi-stakeholder (OTT) Dialogue, May 16:  The Dialogue, being held in Singapore, aims to provide a platform for ASEAN telecommunication regulators, OTT service providers and network service providers to exchange views on the topic of OTT service management and regulation.

View the Council's latest ICT updates

Infrastructure

Major Developments

On March 22, during the visit of Singapore Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing to Washington, DC, the Governments of Singapore and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to jointly promote infrastructure development and investment in Asia.  The aim of the MOU is to provide an alternative to two major initiatives that are also looking to mobilize capital to decrease emerging Asia’s infrastructure investment deficit:  China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and a trilateral partnership between the United States, Australia and Japan.  The MOU will foster a partnership between Singapore's recently launched Infrastructure Asia agency, which serves to connect investors and infrastructure projects in the region, and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which helps U.S. firms invest in emerging markets.  These two agencies will spearhead the initiative for the United States and Singapore to collaborate on information sharing, deal facilitation and structuring, and capacity-building schemes in key industry sectors, such as energy, natural resource management, water, waste, transportation and urban development, according to a statement from the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry.  The Asian Development Bank estimates that over the next decade, ASEAN nations will require approximately US $210 billion per year, or 5.7 percent of their combined GDP, to address the region’s infrastructure needs by 2030.  The Council welcomes the MOU, signed just prior to our high-level luncheon engagement with Minister Chan, as a positive development for American companies looking to invest in the ASEAN infrastructure market.  Please read our press release on Minister Chan’s visit and the MOU signing here to learn more.

View the Council's latest Infrastructure updates

Manufacturing

Major Developments

  • ASEAN nations at various levels of industrial development envision deepening “Industry 4.0” technology-led initiatives to achieve national objectives ranging from attracting more foreign Tier 1 Original Equipment Manufacturers to locate in the region, to moving existing manufacturing bases up their respective industry value chain.  The business case for companies includes: navigating the U.S.-China tariff conflict, lowering costs while maintaining quality, and securing preferential access to new markets.  The policy and regulatory frameworks governing how companies can utilize and transmit industrial data will play a critical role in developing competitive advanced manufacturing ecosystems.

Looking Ahead

  • On May 3, the Council is planning to hold a members’ briefing with ASEAN embassy officials in Washington, DC on “The Business Case for 21st Century Manufacturing.”  For more details, contact Marc Mealy at mmealy@usasean.org.
  • On May 23, the Council is planning to hold a members’ briefing with ASEAN embassy officials in Washington, DC on the World Bank’s East Asia Outlook Report: A Resurgent East Asia, Navigating a Changing World, featuring: Sudhir Shetty, World Bank Chief Economist for East Asia and the Pacific and Andrew Mason, World Bank Deputy Chief Economist for East Asia and the Pacific.  For more details, contact Marc Mealy at mmealy@usasean.org.

View the Council's latest Manufacturing updates

Travel and Tourism

Major Developments

  • A masterplan to boost the region’s export of services through tourism is among the 13 economic deliverables of Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship year.  Thailand will push for the completion of ASEAN gastronomical guidelines which aims to increase connectivity and networking of different tourism communities with emphasis on food quality, safety and hygiene.  One of the routes in the guidelines is the “ASEAN Peranakan and Nature Trail,” which will cover multiple tourist areas from Penang and Langkawi in Malaysia to Satu, Krabi and Phuket in Thailand.  
  • The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Alibaba Group recently inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to drive visitor arrivals and spending by Chinese visitors.  This will involve co-developing joint marketing campaigns and content, collaborating on inbound Chinese traveler analytics, and creating more tourism experiences in Singapore.  At the same Tourism Industry Conference 2019, STB signed a memorandum of cooperation (MOC) with Indonesian tech unicorn Traveloka to promote Singapore as a preferred destination for visitors from five major Southeast Asian markets: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Looking Ahead

SME Workshop in the Philippines: "Strengthening a Sustainable Tourism Model for SMEs in Digital Transformation,” May 3:  The Council is pleased to invite Members' participation in a one-day Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) workshop titled "Strengthening a Sustainable Tourism Model for SMEs in Digital Transformation" in Manila. For information, please contact Nugraheni Utami at utami@usasean.org.  

View the Council's latest Travel and Tourism updates

Country Highlights

Brunei

Major Developments

  • On March 23, Brunei’s Legislative Council (LegCo) unanimously approved a national budget allocation of BND 5.86 billion (about US $4.34 billion) for the 2019/2020 fiscal year.  The new budget, which will take effect on April 1, is higher than the 2018/2019 fiscal year budget which was BND 5.3 billion (about US $3.92 billion).  The total revenue for 2019/2020 is projected at BND 4.36 billion (about US $3.23 billion), with about 73 percent of this revenue coming from the oil and gas sector.  The 15th LegCo meeting, Brunei’s annual parliamentary session, was chaired by Speaker YB Dato Abdul Rahman and comprised of 36 members including Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, the 14 cabinet ministers and 20 appointed members who include state dignitaries, grassroot leaders and representatives from various professional, social and religious groups.  The Ministry of Finance and Economy received the largest budget allocation of BND 814 million (about US $602 million) to help its efforts to continue strengthening the fiscal and economic position of the country and explore opportunities to expand the government’s revenue base from the non-oil and gas sectors.  The Ministry of Finance and Economy has also set aside BND 21 million (about US $15.5 million) in Brunei’s recently approved national budget towards establishing Brunei’s stock exchange, although the timeline has not been disclosed.  The initial focus will be on listing equities, adding bonds and Islamic bonds at a later stage.  The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism also received an increase in budget allocation as the Ministry continues efforts to boost tourism in Brunei to bring in more revenues.  The Ministry of Defense’s budget previously came under growing strain due to broader economic challenges, but the approved budget sees an increase although the exact number was not disclosed.  Meanwhile the Ministry of Development sees a decrease in its budget to approximately BND 218 million (about US $161 million) from BND 807 million (about US $567 million) last fiscal year.
  • Brunei has officially enacted phases two and three of the sharia law, effective April 3.  The stricter laws come in effect five years after the first phase of the sharia penal code was first implemented in April 2014 in which the Sultan announced that he will impose sharia law in three phases.  The enactment also came in shortly following Brunei’s LegCo passing of the new budget.  Currently, Brunei’s legal system is based on British common law with a parallel sharia law system for Muslims that was previously limited to governing custody rights and marital matters.  In response to international criticism, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah released a press statement stating that Brunei will uphold sharia law as a sovereign Islamic and fully independent country.  Brunei is the first country in ASEAN to fully adopt sharia law, although neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia have been experimenting with certain aspects of sharia law for years.  Both Malaysia and Indonesia have already recognized a mix of secular and sharia legal systems, with some regions mandating sharia laws for certain actions.  

View the Council's latest Brunei updates

Cambodia

Major Developments

On March 29, Cambodia’s Government-Private Sector Forum, an annual event where private sector representatives are able to address their concerns directly to the Prime Minister, was held in Phnom Penh.  During the forum, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that his government plans to launch large-scale economic reforms to help stimulate economic growth and offset the loss of the Everything but Arms agreement, a preferential trade agreement that the European Union (EU) has threatened to withdraw in light of alleged “systemic” electoral and human rights violations.  To learn more, read the Council’s latest analysis here.

View the Council's latest Cambodia updates

Indonesia

Major Developments

  • On April 17, approximately 193 million Indonesians casted their votes in simultaneous elections for five levels of government, including for President and positions in the national Parliament.  Early quick counts show that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo may likely see another term in office, but has told supporters to await official results.  The presidential election follows a direct and simple majority system, in which incumbent President Jokowi ran for re-election with one of the most influential Muslim figures in Indonesia, Ma'ruf Amin, as his running mate against former Special Forces Commander Prabowo Subianto, and former Jakarta deputy governor Sandiaga Uno for the five-year term between 2019 and 2024.  In the legislative elections, a total of 16 parties competed at the national level.  There are a total of 711 seats at stake in Indonesia's two-house People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), namely 575 seats in the People's Representative Council (DPR) and 136 seats in the Regional Representative Council (DPD).  At the polling station, each voter picked officials at five levels of political office: President and Vice-President, a member of the DPR, a member of the DPD, a member of the Provincial Legislative Council and a member of the City/District Legislative Council.  Indonesia’s General Elections Commission stated that the results will be progressively released from April 25 - May 22.  Parliament’s inauguration will take place on October 1, and the Presidential inauguration is scheduled for October 20.
  • A recent interpretation in life insurance regulations have determined that expenses on claims payments to policyholders cannot be charged as standard deductible expenses on tax returns.  The Council is working with local associations and Chambers for advocacy efforts on this reinterpretation, and joined courtesy meetings proposing clarification with related governments official including Financial Authority (OJK) Fiscal Policy Agency (BKF) and Directorate General (DG) of Tax.  On April, 8, DG Tax issued Circular Letter No. SE-08/PJ/2019 regarding the explanation on how to calculate bookkeeping.  However, industry still seeks clarification on whether the implementation of this circular letter aligns with the purpose that claims payments to policyholders are allowed to be charged as deductible expenses, particularly when referred to during tax audit processes. 

Advocacy

  • The Indonesian Ministry of Manpower is currently in the process of drafting a Ministerial Decree on job positions available for expatriate employment.  Specifically, companies would not be able to recruit foreign workers to fill in the positions that are not listed in the Decree.  In March, the Council, together with other business associations, submitted a joint advocacy letter to the Ministry calling for fairer treatment of foreign workers.  Following the submission, the Council and other associations were summoned to the Office of Vice President for a discussion with Sofyan Wanadi and Wijayanto of the Expert Staff, and Maruli of the Ministry of Manpower, who stipulated during the meeting that there will be an effective and fast mechanism provided by the Ministry to add more industries and positions on the list considering that the list will be flexible and open-ended.  Moreover, the Ministry plans to establish a special committee to ensure the process goes smoothly.
  • Following the previous industry submission on the Circular Letter for the Implementation of Ministerial Reg. 39/2018, the Indonesia Patent Office further welcomes industry inputs on the Ministerial Regulation 39/2018 related to compulsory licensing for patented products that do not meet the postponement criteria.

Looking Ahead

  • Indonesia Quarterly Members’ Meeting, New Office Warming and Iftar Dinner, May 15:  For more information, please contact Angga Antagia at aantagia@usasean.org.

View the Council's latest Indonesia updates

Laos

Major Developments

  • On March 11, Laos Minister of Industry and Commerce H.E. Khemmani Pholsena and EU Ambassador to Laos Léon Paul Faber launched the 2019-2022 strategic plan of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF).  This is a project designed to increase Laos’ exports and support reforms and investments in local business development.  The project’s US $1.8 million investment package will primarily focus on the Luangnamtha, Oudomxay and Phongsaly provinces in Northern Laos, the most poverty-stricken region of the country.  It is intended to improve livelihoods by boosting agricultural production and aims to support SME enterprises by removing barriers to business, developing local and regional supply chains, and enhancing public-private consultation.  For more information, see our recent Laos Update here.

View the Council's latest Laos updates

Malaysia

Advocacy

The Council co-hosted a roundtable luncheon for Minister of International Trade and Industry YB Datuk Darell Leiking during his first visit to Washington on April 1.  It was a positive exchange that allowed about 25 member companies to introduce their operations in Malaysia to the minister and raise several topics impacting the business environment, including intellectual property, standards and the digital economy.

Looking Ahead

The Council and Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry are organizing a Q2 workshop in Kuala Lumpur on Industry 4.0’s potential for Malaysian SMEs with Minister YB Datuk Darell Leiking officiating the event.  We expect around 250 SMEs to attend the workshop.  Sessions on digital transformation, global value chain, e-commerce and digital payment will be some of the topics of discussion along with consultation sessions between American private sector representatives and local SME owners.

View the Council's latest Malaysia updates

Myanmar

Major Developments

On February 26, Myanmar’s Ministry of Planning and Finance finalized its draft of the Myanmar Digital Economy Roadmap to enable digital transformation, governance, trade and innovation, while encouraging inclusive and sustainable economic development in the country.  The roadmap targets digital advancement in nine priority sectors:  education, healthcare, agriculture, fishery and livestock, tourism and hospitality, manufacturing and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), financial services, technology and the start-up ecosystem, digital trade, transportation and logistics.  Per the roadmap, the goal is to increase digital transformation across all of Myanmar’s industry sectors up to 10 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2025, enable digital technologies’ utilization of SMEs up to 20 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2025, as well as increase the market penetration of digital financial service transactions to 15 percent in 2020 and 30 percent in 2025.  Nationwide mobile subscriptions and internet usage are expected to reach 50 percent in 2020 and 55 percent in 2025.  Foreign direct investment in the digital economy is expected to reach US $8 billion in 2020 and US $12 billion in 2025. On implementing the roadmap’s targeted goals, a Digital Economy Development Committee has been formed with Vice President U Henry Van Thio as its Patron.  The Committee has been tasked to ensure that government policies are in support of creating an innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem that encourages the growth of Myanmar’s digital economy and the emergence of new jobs related to technology.  In doing so, it will work to usher an attractive environment for digital foreign investors to bring in the capital and technical expertise necessary to help Myanmar leapfrog into the digital age.

Advocacy

In recent years, the Council has expanded its advocacy efforts with the Government of Myanmar (GOM) to implement economic reforms to enable U.S. businesses to increase their trade and investment activities to support inclusive economic growth.  Given the many ways a domestic insurance industry can catalyze new investments in social safety nets, infrastructure and job creation, we were pleased when the GOM announced that its domestic life insurance industry would be liberalized in 2019.  The Council closely monitored the GOM’s reform process, gathered intelligence on the competitive environment, and communicated the experiences and benefits neighboring ASEAN countries secured when they allowed American insurances companies to invest in their life insurance industries.  On April 5, five foreign insurance companies were granted licenses to establish 100 percent-owned operations in the country, with one license going to a member of the Council, Chubb Insurance. By selecting Chubb, the Government of Myanmar has sent a positive signal that it sees value in the benefits of American firms investing in Myanmar.

View the Council's latest Myanmar updates

Philippines

Major Developments

  • On April 15, President Rodrigo R. Duterte finally signed the four-month delayed 3.757 trillion peso (about US $71 billion) 2019 national budget into law but vetoed about 95.3 billion pesos (about US $183 million) meant for items in the "Details of DPWH Programs/Projects."  Duterte vetoed this because they are not among his budget "priorities" for 2019.
  • The Philippines is targeting an 8 percent growth in halal exports.  This target was set to take advantage of the growing demand of such products in the global market.  The Philippines is aiming to become a major supplier of halal products especially in the areas of food, pharmaceuticals, tourism and Islamic finance.  Last year, 90 percent of halal exports were accounted for by food and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • The Philippines’ Department of Energy is currently promoting the use of electric vehicles to enhance environmental preservation.  The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, Senator Gatchalian, urged the department to build a roadmap for e-vehicles in the nation in collaboration with several other departments including the Department of Transportation, the land transportation office, and other relevant agencies.  The Electric Vehicles and Charging Act bill was proposed and seeks to create a roadmap that details the distribution of utilities and to incorporate a charging infrastructure development plan.

View the Council's latest Philippines updates

Singapore

Major Developments

  • This morning, in Singapore, the Prime Minister’s Office announced changes in the Cabinet effective May 1, with the most significant change being the promotion of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat to Deputy Prime Minister.  His concurrent designation as Finance Minister and DPM ensures continuity in our engagement with him.  Further, according to the announcement, Mr. Teo Chee Hean and Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam will relinquish their appointments as Deputy Prime Ministers.  They will be appointed Senior Ministers and remain in the Cabinet.  Mr. Teo will continue as Coordinating Minister for National Security.  Mr. Tharman will be re-designated as Coordinating Minister for Social Policies.  He will continue to advise the Prime Minister on economic policies.  
  • Singapore’s Artificial Intelligence Governance and Ethics initiative won top award at the World Summit Geneva on April 9, beating four other global finalists.  This initiative aims to build an ecosystem of trust that would support the adoption of AI, which would include components such as a governance framework, an international advisory council, and a research program on the governance of AI and data use.
  • On April 1, Singapore announced plans to combat online fake news with proposed legislation called the Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill.  According to the Ministry of Law, this bill would cut profits from sites that spread false information.  Thus far, the bill has been met with criticism from human rights advocates who expressed worries that this law would damage public interest and grant authorities with power in distinguishing truth from falsehood.

Advocacy

On March 20, the Council hosted a luncheon with Singapore Trade Minister Chan Chun Sing, who shared his views on U.S. global leadership.  He emphasized the importance of connectivity to Singapore’s survival and welcomed American businesses’ support for Singapore’s open and free trade initiatives in ASEAN and the WTO.   See a transcript Minister Chan’s dialogue here.  For more information, please see our press release here.  

Looking Ahead

  • Singapore Business Mission, May 8-9:  The Council is registering senior-level executives for its annual Business Mission to Singapore.  For more information, please contact Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez at lalmonte@usasean.org.

View the Council's latest Singapore updates

Thailand

Major Developments

  • On March 24, Thailand held its first general election in eight years.  Four days later, the Election Commission publicly announced a preliminary vote count, accounting for 100 percent of votes at 75 percent voter turnout.  The results indicated that the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), which is made up of several former Cabinet Ministers of the current administration and whose sole Prime Ministerial candidate is current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, won the popular vote with 8.4 million votes.  Pheu Thai, a holdover from former ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s party, came in second with 7.9 million votes.  The official results are likely to be announced on May 9, the final date allowed by the Constitution.  The 2019 elections saw many new parties, such as the Future Forward Party (FFP), outperforming some of the older and more established parties, like the Democratic Party led by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.  The elections also revealed key demographic differences, with younger voters choosing parties with social welfare platforms, like FFP, and older voters choosing parties promising stability, like PPRP.  For more information, see our Thailand Analytical Update here.
  • On March 28, Thailand’s Deputy Transport Minister announced plans to establish three train assembly plants in Thailand to serve as an export hub to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.  In addition to its plans to transform Thailand into a regional train assembly hub, the Ministry of Transport aims to upgrade and expand Thailand’s rail network to link it with its neighbors.  For more information, see our recent Thailand Update here.
  • On March 18, the Ministry of Commerce announced that Thailand would postpone its application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP) until its new government is in place.  The decision more likely stems from the current government’s prudency to hand negotiations over to the next government, which will have final veto power over Thailand’s CPTPP entry, rather than a fundamental disagreement with accession or public opposition to it.  For more information, see our recent Thailand Update here.

Advocacy

  • The Revenue Department will be releasing official clarification at the end of the month on the new International Business Centers tax regime, following its repeal of the grandfathered Regional Operating Headquarters I and II, International Headquarters, Treasury Center and International Trading Center tax regimes.  See here for more information on the repeal, and contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org for additional questions.

View the Council's latest Thailand updates

Vietnam

Major Developments

  • Earlier this month, the Council held a roundtable, reception and dinner in honor of Minister Mai Tien Dung, Chairman of the Office of the Government of Vietnam in Washington, DC.  The roundtable offered members the opportunity to continue discussions on issues raised during our annual Business Mission to Vietnam last month, including topics related to Vietnam’s energy security and cooperation, the cybersecurity and OTT decrees, customs and logistics issues, automotive policies, health opportunities, and innovation and e-commerce in the food, beverage and agriculture sector.  During the dinner, both U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish and Minister Dung highlighted two common points in their remarks:  the importance of the U.S.-Vietnam trade and investment relationship and the Vietnamese Government’s commitment to creating fair and favorable conditions for American companies exporting, investing, manufacturing and doing business in Vietnam.  
  • The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) has released a decision on plans for the CPTPP’s implementation, delegating tasks and establishing deadlines for relevant MOIT agencies, which will also be responsible for ensuring the competitiveness of Vietnam’s domestic businesses.  MOIT also plans to disseminate information relevant to CPTPP over various media channels to inform businesses of its details.  According to Viet Nam News, plans will involve the drafting of legal documents covering export-import management and trace of origin and competitiveness procedures.  These will be implemented over two phases, the first launched in 2019 and the second initiated from 2020-2025.  In addition, MOIT will help coordinate and participate in activities of the CPTPP Commission and sub-committees, as well as other tasks within the framework of the trade agreement.
  • Following reports at the end of March that the Vietnam Plant Protection Department (PPD) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) planned to ban the import of glyphosate-based herbicides following the San Francisco federal court verdict related to the agrochemical “Roundup,” on April 10 MARD officially announced that it had removed glyphosate from the list of approved pesticides in the country.  This decision to halt imports will go into effect in 60 days and the ban on domestic use will go into effect in one year.  Following Vietnam’s earlier announcement, the United States, Germany, Canada and Australia had sent requests to Vietnam to follow a science-based approach in line with international commitments.

Advocacy

  • From March 14-15, the Council led a delegation of 13 major Health & Life Sciences (HLS) companies on our fourth annual HLS Industry Mission to Vietnam.  The delegation met with top officials in the Vietnam Ministry of Health (MOH), Vietnam Social Security, National Assembly Committee on Social Issues, working-level officials from multiple MOH departments as well as a major private hospital and the U.S. Embassy-Hanoi team.  The top priorities of the Vietnamese Government stakeholders were, inter alia, to (1) ensure sustainable and cost-effective healthcare for its population, (2) attract foreign direct investment, technical assistance and capacity-building programs to develop its domestic healthcare sector, (3) ensure access to innovative and high-quality pharmaceuticals, medical devices, systems and infrastructure, and (4) leverage digital technologies to improve service delivery.  Throughout the mission, the delegation was able to raise priority issues and receive feedback, identify opportunities for further collaboration and seek clarifications on the national tender process, reimbursement lists, and the implementation of different decrees, among other issues.

Looking Ahead

  • Both the 2019 Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to Vietnam (planned for April 11-12) and the ASEAN Safe, Nutritious Food forum in Vietnam (planned for April 10-12) will be rescheduled due to timing conflicts with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, with new dates coming soon. For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org and Hai Pham at hpham@usasean.org.
  • This week, Minister of Public Security General To Lam is in the U.S. with stops in New York and Washington.  Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh is expected to make a visit in the coming weeks.  This visit by the Deputy Prime Minister will precede the expected and long-awaited return to Washington by President & General Secretary of the Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong, who was officially invited to come to Washington by President Trump during his visit to Hanoi this February.

View the Council's latest Vietnam updates