President's Newsletter - June 2020

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

June 2020

Dear Members,

I hope you and your families and colleagues are healthy and safe as parts of ASEAN and the United States start to emerge from COVID-19 movement controls.

Like many around the world and most in the United States, I was deeply troubled by the events surrounding the tragic murder of George Floyd which embodied centuries of racism in America. In finding the right words to say, I know silence is not an option. As the Chair, President and CEO of this organization, I want to underscore that US-ABC does not tolerate racism, sexism or discrimination of any kind, anywhere. We embrace diversity and think it is one of the attributes that make America, ASEAN and the Council stronger. Anyone who is familiar with the Council’s staff would know that this is not just talk but woven into the DNA of how we live and work. However, being a diverse organization does not preclude us from examining where we fall short and how we could do better. As a voice of the U.S. business community in Southeast Asia, we are committed to stamping out racism and discrimination as well as supporting equality for all in the United States and Southeast Asia.

In ASEAN, we are closely monitoring the state of play in Malaysia’s shifting political landscape. On May 18, Malaysia’s Parliament held a one-day session that consisted solely of the King’s address. No motions were raised, including the proposed vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin submitted by former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir. Parliament will hold its second session from July 13 to August 27. It is uncertain whether a motion of no confidence will be raised against the Prime Minister then. According to the Malaysian Constitution, if the Prime Minister no longer holds the confidence of the majority of Parliament, a resignation would be required and the King may then appoint a new Prime Minister or dissolve Parliament, paving the way for a general election. The 12th Malaysia Plan (RMK-12) was to be tabled on August 6, but the government has announced it will be delayed, along with the 2021 Budget which was moved from October 2 to November 6, during Parliament’s third and final sitting for 2020. To read more about the Council's other updates on Malaysia, click here.

We are also watching with anticipation when Singapore’s general elections will be called, which must be held by April 14, 2021. Preparations have begun, including the passing of Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Bill to allow special, temporary arrangements should the next General Election take place during the pandemic, so that voters, candidates and election officials can go to the polls safely. In addition, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing has signaled that elections will be called soon and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has stated that the sooner the polls are held, the earlier Singapore can focus on the challenges posed by the pandemic. How to hold elections safely is a key priority for the government. Social gatherings of up to five people will be allowed in Phase Two of the country's reopening beginning June 19, meaning that political parties will be able to conduct walkabouts in small groups in the lead up to the election. While preparations are coming together, the Elections Department has not yet released specific campaign guidelines. To read more about the Council's other updates on Singapore, click here.

In the Philippines, on June 1, the government notified the U.S. Embassy in Manila that it is suspending the termination of the Philippines-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). In February, President Rodrigo Duterte announced his intention to cancel the VFA, effective August 2020. The VFA was the cornerstone of the temporary U.S. military presence in the Philippines and the implementation of the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Act (EDCA). This initial decision was met with opposition from Philippine lawmakers, with the Philippines Senate challenging the initial termination decision in the Philippines Supreme Court. The decision to suspend the termination of the VFA will last for six months beginning from June 1 and is extendable for another six months thereafter. To learn more, read the Council's latest defense & security update here.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a very real threat and create disruption to the Council and our members’ operations across the board. As governments across ASEAN work towards reopening and take precautionary measures against a potential second spike of infections, our Council staff have put together a comprehensive overview of the latest developments on movement of people, goods and services across ASEAN, and the legislative and policy shifts in light of this pandemic. I urge you to take a moment to review the COVID-19 update section below and visit our COVID-19 Digital Dashboard webpage at https://covid19.usasean.org/.

Moreover, the Council remains committed to creating opportunities for our members and organizing important virtual briefings and events. On June 2, we were proud to partner with the Obama Foundation to host a virtual discussion with business and sustainability leaders from the Asia Pacific focused on lessons learned and leadership qualities in the COVID-era. The discussion revealed that over the past few months both the private and public sectors have had to take a deep look at their business models and become extremely creative in addressing how they’ll bounce forward from this pandemic. There is also a growing realization of the need for the private and public sectors to further harmonize their work in different and meaningful ways, such as developing new partnerships to address community needs in times of crisis. The insightful panel discussion featured representatives from Expedia, GE, Adobe, YOLA and Indofood, and was moderated by Council Senior Vice President Marc Mealy.

This month, we also had three high-level virtual engagements with the Government of Indonesia (GOI). On June 3, Council members joined a virtual call with Governor of Bank Indonesia Perry Warjiyo in coordination with the American Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (AICC) and in conjunction with Bank Indonesia and Citi Bank. Governor Perry discussed Bank Indonesia’s financing mechanism for the national economic recovery program and shared some good news on the inflation rate that remains low and under control within the three-percent target, the account deficit that narrowed in the first quarter of 2020, and foreign capital inflows that have returned, among other topics.

Following the meeting with Governor Perry, on June 4, the Council conducted a Virtual Meeting on Foreign Direct Investment in a Post-COVID-19 Indonesia with the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment of Indonesia, Luhut Pandjaitan. This meeting was led by the Council and hosted in collaboration with AICC. Minister Luhut shared a comprehensive presentation on the economic and financial measures by GOI, the rapid progress that was achieved in reducing the downside of COVID-19, as well as Indonesia’s exit strategies that have been carefully implemented to recover from the crisis caused by the pandemic. Minister Luhut elaborated a list of existing opportunities that can increase American foreign direct investment in a post-COVID-19 Indonesia, including the integrated upstream-to-downstream industry development in which the private sector can play a role in supporting the GOI’s recovery strategy. Finally, he ensured that his Ministry continues to ease any post-COVID challenges and provide incentives to U.S. investors to ensure U.S.-Indonesia business and investment continues to survive and flourish.

On June 11, the Council conducted a virtual meeting with Indonesia Minister of Industry Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita. During the meeting, Minister Agus covered strategic topics such as Indonesia’s economic growth that remains on a positive trend at 2.97 percent in Q1, despite challenges posed by COVID-19 and a downturn in industrial product utilization from 75 percent to 40 percent. Minister Agus elaborated how GOI continues to create policies that help the private sector recover from the crisis through policies and guidelines that allow safe mobilization of foreign and domestic workers during the transitional period of reopening. The Minister also took the time to respond to questions and concerns raised by Council members related to the Ministry of Industry’s regulations, including the local content requirement for ICT and pharmaceutical products that aim to increase domestic industry utilization and, more importantly, how to balance it without creating heavy barriers for foreign investors.

On June 10, the Council kicked off its inaugural Virtual Food & Agriculture Industry Mission to the Philippines with a meeting featuring the Honorable William Dar, Secretary of Agriculture of the Philippines. During the meeting, the delegation had the opportunity to discuss priority food and agriculture issues and share ideas for collaboration with Secretary Dar. As part of the engagement, the Council proposed the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Council and the Department of Agriculture on partnerships to strengthen agricultural cooperation. This MoU will be a way to institutionalize and pledge enhanced cooperation in agriculture development in the Philippines and is especially timely as both sides are looking for more cooperation on COVID-19 response and economic recovery. The proposed MoU was well-received by Secretary Dar, who offered to hold more frequent engagements with the Council and its members to discuss collaborations in the agriculture sector, and the finalization of this MoU will be a key deliverable from this meeting. Looking ahead, the Council will hold the remainder of the meetings in this virtual mission during the week of June 22, including proposed meetings with the National Food Authority, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Economic and Development Authority, Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the Department of Trade and Industry.

On May 22, the Council held a virtual briefing with the Honorable Daniel J. Kritenbrink, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, and the U.S. Embassy team in Hanoi. This was the Council’s second teleconference call with Ambassador Kritenbrink this year, focusing on the recent ICT regulations in Vietnam. During the call, Ambassador Kritenbrink shared his perspective on the current political, economic and social climate in Vietnam, with insights into the Government of Vietnam’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its plans for the future. Ambassador Kritenbrink also provided the views of the U.S. Government on the U.S.-Vietnam bilateral relationship in general and the recent decrees from the Ministries of Information & Communications and Public Security. Council members had the opportunity to share with Ambassador Kritenbrink their input and comments on Decree 72 (drafted by the Ministry of Information and Communications) and the Personal Data Protection Decree (drafted by the Ministry of Public Security). Looking ahead, Ambassador Kritenbrink has agreed to work closely with the Council and our members on next steps in this advocacy effort.

On May 27, the Council hosted a follow-up conference call with U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Michael G. DeSombre, who highlighted how the U.S. Embassy has been working closely with U.S. companies to help promote economic dialogue and partnership during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The Ambassador praised Thailand for its efforts in keeping factories and businesses operational during the pandemic. Our members on the call also had the opportunity to engage with the Ambassador and voice sector-specific concerns and recommendations for Thailand’s re-opening process. We expect to have two more calls with Ambassador DeSombre this year in the third and fourth quarters.

On May 29, more than 200 owners and executives of Philippines Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) participated in a webinar entitled Digital Payment for SMEs in COVID-19,the first event in a series in response to the pandemic. This is an activity under the Council’s broader ASEAN SME Capacity Building Program in 2020 and aims to help ASEAN SMEs thrive amidst COVID-19, with the Council’s member companies sharing their knowledge and expertise on how going digital and utilizing digital payment systems can help and benefit small businesses. The webinar was conducted in close collaboration with the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry and Philippine Trade and Training Center.

Looking ahead, on July 1, we will host a Senior Leaders Forum on U.S.–ASEAN Health Cooperation. This is a private sector response to the U.S.-ASEAN Health Futures Initiative launched on April 22 by U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo during his conversation with ASEAN Foreign Ministers. The Council will convene senior health and technology voices from our membership along with U.S. government and ASEAN leaders to highlight plans for ongoing and future public health and technology initiatives as well as discuss ways in which the U.S. private sector can continue to cooperate on a deeper level with ASEAN leadership. We are pleased to announce that the event will feature remarks by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric D. Hargan.

On July 15, the Council will co-host a virtual panel discussion on FDI Opportunities in ASEAN in the Post-COVID World, in partnership with EY. The panel will review measures ASEAN countries have put in place to alleviate economic shocks, look at the short and medium term growth outlook, discuss fiscal spending priorities and stimulus measures, explore supply chains and distribution channels in Southeast Asia, and highlight regional economic integration and cooperation to support economic recovery in line with the new normal. The panel will include representatives from the private sector in the financial services industry and senior ASEAN government officials.

Sincerely,
Alex

 

Country, Industry and Advocacy Updates

 

COVID-19 Update

Brunei
Brunei announced that it will operate a new temporary flying program with limited number of flights. To retain vital connectivity for services, supply and emergency travels, this temporary program will operate until June 30 2020, directly connecting Bandar Seri Begawan to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Manila. While citizens and permanent residents are still restricted from leaving the country, there are exceptions for those who travel for medical care, attending court hearings, or resuming study abroad, upon approval by the Prime Minister’s Office. To keep health and safety measures in place, visitors arriving into Brunei must take the COVID-19 test and undergo a 14-day self-isolation at the monitoring centers. After nearly 11 weeks of closing, and after no new cases were recorded for the past few weeks, Brunei Education Minister announced the first phase of school reopening which will gradually happen from June 2 to 13. Public and private schools have partially reopened for students who are sitting for public exams.

Cambodia
Cambodian authorities recently announced that 122 patients who were tested positive had recovered and no new cases were confirmed for more than 30 days. As of May 20, Cambodia has lifted several travel restrictions which include travelers from U.S, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Iran. However, at the same time, to still ensure safety, the travelers are required to present a Covid-19 medical certificate and medical insurance covering at least $50,000 in expenses (excluding Cambodian citizens). Upon arrival, the passengers will also be undergoing Covid-19 testing where if any are tested positive, they will be going through a 14-day facility quarantine. If not, travelers will be put under self-isolation at home. Moreover, the suspension of all visa free entries, issuance of e-visas and visas-on-arrival remains unchanged. Flights have started to resume, especially from China and Korea, but the aforementioned requirements remain stringent. Locally, the Health Ministry has been slowly planning for reopening of public spaces, keeping track of decline on case counts. The Inter-Ministerial committee to Counter COVID-19 released a statement on May 22 to allow reopening of sporting events, with attendance limited to less than 100 players and officials. Decisions towards full reopening, however, continues to be a concern since this can ease people into false sense of security and result in a second wave of the outbreak.

Indonesia
After having fully reinforced the Large-Scale Social Restriction since April, Indonesia has swift into Stage I of reopening starting June 4 2020. As an effort to balance lives and livelihood, the Ministry of Health had issued a Decree on the new health protocols to carefully guide public and businesses towards the new normal. Jakarta and Banten governors translated this new normal guideline into a gubernatorial regulation to implement the transitional PSBB. During the first stage of transitional period, Jakarta has reopened access for private cars on June 8. Religious, sport, and public transport facilities were reopened although not at full capacity, creating a congestion due to reduced public transport capacity versus a higher people mobility. Moreover, offices, restaurants, factories, and other businesses reopened on June 8. Following the three sub-stages, public spaces and parks will reopen on June 13, shopping centers on June 15, and recreational parks and zoos on June 20. Business revival processes closely adapt the Health Ministry ‘s new normal protocols which include limiting visitors or workers to 50 percent, sanitizing workplaces, and forming a COVID-19 team in their workplaces. The protocol has also placed an anti-discrimination measure, restricting businesses to lay off quarantining or self-isolating workers. Sanctions for violations will be given based on PSBB regulation, for example, a fine of Rp 250,000 (US$17.84) will be imposed to those who do not wear a mask in public. The reopening, especially in the capital and big cities were implemented just after COVID-19 cases peaked to 993 cases in end May.

Laos
Officials have reported that the total number of COVID-19 confirmed cases in Laos has remained 19 with no new cases reported for more than 50 consecutive days. Given the steady control of COVID-19, the Lao government has continued to ease lockdown restrictions and allow more sectors to reopen. On May 29, the Prime Minister’s Office released a notice detailing updated lockdown measures. More venues, such as cinemas and night markets, have been permitted to re-open. On June 1, the Ministry of Foreign affairs Laos announced the issued update on entry and exit rules, which will be effective from June 2 to 30. Diplomats, foreign technical staff and workers, foreign investors, and businesspeople can submit an application to the government for entry authorization. Lao nationals in foreign countries who wish to return to Laos are required to register with a Lao embassy or consulate in their countries of residence. Social distancing and prevention measures must still be strictly followed. The easing of restrictions remains temporary. If an infected case is found in more than two or more provinces, stricter lockdown measures may be re-imposed.

Malaysia
As of June 11, there are 1,186 active COVD-19 cases being treated in the country. On June 7, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the new Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) which is set to begin on June 10 until August 31. The previous nationwide COVID-19 Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) ended on June 9 as Malaysia continues to contain the spread of the pandemic. The RMCO will allow most business activities to resume operations with relevant Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place. The Malaysian government has also unveiled a RM35 billion stimulus package to support the economic recovery efforts from the impacts of the COVID-19 and the Movement Control Order (MCO) on June 5. Previously sanctioned social, educational, and religious activities will also be allowed with adherence to their relevant SOPs. However, activities that draw large gatherings of people such as sporting events and religious parades are still prohibited. Interstate travel has been permitted starting June 10 while overseas travel is still prohibited. Expats and foreigners are required to obtain prior approval from the Director-General of Immigration Department Malaysia (DGIM) and to submit the results of COVID-19 test before entering Malaysia. Once they arrived in Malaysia, they are subjected to a compulsory 14-day quarantine and required to download the “MySejahtera” mobile application to allow the Ministry of Health to monitor the users’ health.

Myanmar
Myanmar currently has 260 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 6 deaths and 165 recovered patients. Even though Myanmar is continuing with travel restrictions until June 15, relief, cargo and medical evacuation flights remain an exception. The nationwide curfew and bans on mass gatherings at specified locations are also still in place to ensure safety measures. But at the same time, the country is taking incremental steps to proceed with economic recovery. As of May 28, stay-at-home instructions have been revoked at several townships in Yangon. A limited number of airlines have resumed domestically. The Ministry of Education is planning on reopening of schools on July 21, complying with guidelines of social distancing. Restaurants and hotels are resuming businesses with new precautions. On June 10, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism announced a Covid-19 Tourism Relief Plan to help troubled tourism businesses navigate the repercussions of the pandemic. The plan is set to be implemented in three phases and aims to rebuild Myanmar’s tourism industry.

Philippines
The Philippines has begun to ease community quarantine measures, with the National Capital Region and other cities notably transitioning from the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) on June 1. The rest of the country and low-risk areas will transition to Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ). Under GCQ, public transportation will resume with reduced capacity and limited domestic and international flights will be permitted, although domestic flights may be subjected to restrictions and requirements by local government units. Quarantine passes and travel authority are no longer required except for travel across provincial borders. Industries that were previously permitted to operate at 50 percent capacity under ECQ and MECQ are now permitted to operate at full capacity under GCQ. Industries such as public and private construction, financial services, and scientific research and development are permitted to fully operate but must follow health and safety protocols. The Philippine Congress entered recess on June 5, but a number of bills are under consideration that would provide economic relief to individuals and businesses and incentives for investors.

Singapore
On June 15, Singapore health authorities announced that Phase 2 of reopening would begin on June 19, after approximately two weeks in Phase 1 reopening. Phase 1 allowed businesses with lower risks of transmission, such as those in the manufacturing and production sectors, to re-open with safe management measures. The government continues to encourage the continuation of telecommuting and work-from-home arrangements. Phase 2 now permits the reopening of retail outlets, the resumption of dine-in at food and beverage outlets, the reopening of public facilities such as parks and gyms, and a gradual reopening of schools and IHLs, all with safe distancing measures. Although Singapore recently established a “fast-lane arrangement” to facilitate essential business and official travel between Singapore and six provinces and municipalities in Mainland China, there still exists restrictions on cross-border travel between Singapore and Malaysia. Furthermore, short-term visitors are not allowed entry into the country, although transit through the country’s airports will begin to gradually resume.

Thailand
Since June 1, Thailand has entered the third phase of lockdown relaxations. The night-time curfew has been adjusted to 11 pm -3 am. Shopping malls have been permitted to extend business hours to 9 pm. Venues authorized to reopen with some restrictions include exhibition centers, amulet markets, massage parlors, childcare centers, fitness centers, sport complexes, beauty clinics, bowling alleys, dance halls, water sport centers, performance art and movie theaters, and zoos. For safe reopening, all public venues must screen their employees and customers for any symptoms resemble COVID-19. Their visits must be logged on the government’s Thai Chana Tracking system. According Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesperson of the Centre for COVID-19 Administration (CCSA), the fourth phase of easing restrictions will allow full reopening of food courts, hotels and restaurants. No specific date has been given for the fourth phase; it could take place as early as mid-June or in early July. No domestically transmitted cases have been reported for more than two weeks in Thailand.

Vietnam
With only 11 patients left under treatment and 321 others already recovered as of June 11, Vietnam has recorded 56 days since the last community transmission and functionally returned to business as usual. Starting May 7, the Prime Minister allowed non-essential services, excluding discos and karaoke parlors, to resume operations while the Ministry of Transports decided to lift all social distancing restrictions in place for passenger transport services and limitations on number of passengers. Although preventive guidelines are still in places, domestic travels and activities have resumed to pre-pandemic normal level, indicated by all domestic carriers, including the national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines and low-cost carrier Vietjet Air, have resumed all routes and schedules while domestic tourism recovers, seeing hotel occupancy as high as 100 percent. However, the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control determined on May 28 that Vietnam continues closing borders to foreign tourists at this time, as external COVID-19 transmission risks remain.

The success of Vietnam’s response to the pandemic has earned praises and confidence by representatives of foreign businesses, including the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham), Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KoCham), the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (AmCham), and the US-ASEAN Business Council. On June 5, the Politburo issued a conclusion on measures to address the impact of the pandemic for national economic recovery and development. The conclusion emphasizes the need to use the domestic market to the maximum and cope with outside uncertainties to maintain macro-economic and social stability. It also highlights the need to create a favorable and attractive business environment suitable to new trends by enhancing competitiveness, developing e-government, and enhancing disbursement and efficiency of public investment. In addition, Vietnam on June 8 ratified the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which will take effect in July, becomes the second member in ASEAN to have a trade agreement with the EU after Singapore.

 

Key Developments

  • Philippines Senator Proposed Four Bills to Boost Healthcare System
    In a bid to strengthen the country’s healthcare system during the pandemic and to promote equitable economic development across the countries in both urban and rural areas, on May 25 Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, filed four Senate Bills aimed at strengthening the hospital capacity, personnel, and pandemic public health response. In addition to controlling the pandemic, the bills would also improve the healthcare system in the long run. To read more about this update, click here.
  • Potential for Digital Taxes in the Philippines and Indonesia
    With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing nearly all social interaction and entertainment online, ASEAN countries are considering imposing taxes on digital sales and services from non-resident companies. These propositions come amid falling revenues for governments and rising profits for foreign technology companies, which have seen significant increases in the use of their digital services and products this year. Both the Philippines and Indonesia are looking to tax tech giants such as Spotify, Netflix, Google, Facebook, and other companies who provide services such as gaming, applications, and streaming. To read more about this update, click here.
  • Myanmar Lifts Ban on Foreign Liquor Imports
    On May 25, the Ministry of Commerce issued new “Guidelines for the Importation of Foreign Liquor,” which relaxed a ban on alcohol imports that has been in place since 1995. Foreign spirits are now permitted to be legally imported into the country, but only if the product has a cost, insurance, and freight value of at least US$8 per liter. Although this value minimum is designed to ensure the importation of quality products and protect local producers, it is expected to initially limit the impact of the policy due to the higher cost of legally imported liquor. Furthermore, the requirements for registration certificates, licenses and distribution arrangements for importing liquor may pose additional barriers to importers seeking to bring their products into the market. To read more about this update, click here.
  • “Economic Prosperity Network”: Shifting Supply Chains Away from China
    A new US-led multilateral initiative, entitled the “Economic Prosperity Network,” is under discussion to facilitate moving supply chains out of China. In a statement to the press on April 29th, U.S Secretary of State Pompeo referenced recent conversations with Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam on the topics of economic recovery and restructuring supply chains “to prevent something like this from ever happening again.” Given the significant supply chain disruptions in the wake of COVID-19, the potential creation of such a network would reduce sourcing and manufacturing dependence on China. The network is intended to be inclusive of countries and companies and would operate with similar values and standards across multiple sectors and industries. Vietnam is the only Southeast Asian country to be included in these discussions thus far, but Vietnam holds a competitive position to attract companies as an alternative destination for manufacturing due to its location, lower labor costs, and relatively successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To read more about this update, click here.
  • Call for Participation for USAID/Philippines’ Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) Project.
    The USAID Philippines is seeking potential offerors for the new Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON Project). The project aims to promote better access and connectivity in the Philippines by (a) improving the quality of its Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and logistics infrastructure; (b) improving the enabling environment and regulatory governance for ICT and logistics investment; and (c) strengthening cybersecurity protections. The Project’s aims are found in the Statement of Objectives (SOO) in the attached document, Attachment A. Offerors interested must submit a 15-page Concept Paper to response to the SOO. Instructions for the preparation and information on the evaluation of Concept Papers can be found in section Attachment B of the same document. For more information please contact John Avila (javila@usaid.gov) or Manila ROAA RFP (manila-roaa-rfp@usaid.gov).
  • Myanmar’s General Elections to Take Place as Planned
    COVID-19 has prompted concerns that the November 2020 general election - the third of its kind in six decades - might be affected. The previous two have been traditionally held in November, with the announcement of election day dates taking place three or four months ahead. After a landslide victory in 2015, the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Su Kyi is expected to take the lead again this year, although tensions in the military-civilian relationship have yet to improve. The Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), the current opposition party made up of former Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) leaders is set to challenge the NLD in almost every parliamentary seat across the country. Also among the forefront of the electoral stage this year is the People’s Pioneer Party (PPP) comprised of around a thousand members and led by Dr. Thet Thet Khine, a former legislator for the NLD; she has said that the PPP would adopt the framework of achieving and protecting the welfare of the Myanmar people, improving the economy, and shifting focus away from reliance on a single leader. In addition, former Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House), Thura U Shwe Mann has also founded the Union Betterment Party, which is running on a platform of improving the economy and promoting ethnic inclusivity. To read more about this update, click here.
  • Progress in 5G Technology Development in ASEAN
    Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, ASEAN countries remain focused on developing 5G technology for deployment and application across the country. On May 11, after gaining one of two licenses to build 5G networks in Singapore in late April, Singapore-based telecommunications provider M1 announced a joint smart manufacturing trial with IBM and Samsung beginning in June. On the same day, Thailand’s largest mobile operator Advanced Info Service (AIS) announced that it had set aside US$1.2 billion for investment in 5G network expansion, aiming to cover around 13 percent of the total population by the end of 2020. Vietnam has also prioritized and made progress with its 5G technology development. Although the Vietnam Government has not granted any licenses to deploy 5G networks, it has granted trial licenses to four major telecommunication services providers in Vietnam to date. A Fitch Solutions report in mid-May has supported that Vietnam could launch commercial services by mid-2020. To read more about this update, click here.
  • Vietnam to Reform Administrative Procedure to Revitalize the Economy
    As Vietnam considers a range of solutions to help the economy recover after the COVID-19 pandemic is contained, the Vietnam Government recognizes that simplifying administrative procedures can make a valuable contribution to revitalizing businesses. Speaking at a conference held by the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council for Administrative Procedure Reform (ACAPR), Vietnam Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (VinaSME) and the USAID on May 23, Chairman of the Office of the Government Mai Tien Dung said that the Government has simplified administrative procedures during the pandemic to mitigate the economic impact and to remove difficulties for production and business, ensuring food security and disbursing public investment capital to ensure social security. Some simplified procedures include the cut of business registration conditions, reduction of categories of goods and products subject to specialized inspections and the application of digitalization in state agency operation. The Chairman also emphasized digital transformation and technology application being critical to not only the digital economy but also the administrative reforms. To read more about this update, click here.
  • Cambodia to Phase Out Small US Dollar Denominations
    On May 29, the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) announced a plan to phase out circulation of small denominated U.S dollar bills in its highly dollarized economy. The NBC said it would start phasing out $1, $2, $5 bills, which was said to be flooding stockpiles, and instead mandate the public to commonly use Riel notes, the national currency. The NBC is making commercial banks and microfinance institutions (MFIs) transport small bills back to NBC within three months, June 1 to August 31. During this timeframe, these small denominated bills will still be used and accepted nationwide. The exact time frame in halting the use of the notes remains unknown. The move is intended to incentivize local banks and the public to increase the use of the local currency. The de-dollarization process will take some time for stability but aims for a positive effect in Cambodian financial market. The push to increase the Riel's role in the Cambodian financial system is expected to give Cambodia’s monetary policy more independence and the NBC more control of managing its currency valuation.
  • Singapore released its Fourth Support Package “Fortitude”
    On May 26, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat revealed the details for a fourth stimulus package providing additional measures to support individuals and businesses impacted by COVID-19. Entitled “Fortitude,” this stimulus package pledged an additional US$23.6 billion (SG$33 billion) to support individuals and businesses, bringing Singapore’s COVID-19 economic support efforts to a total of US$71.5 billion (SG$100 billion). The central focus of this package was jobs, with the budget expanding employee wage support eligibility to more firms and extending the provision of wage subsidies to 10 months. The budget emphasized the need for digital transformation as Singapore begins the process of phased reopening and economic recovery, pledging US$357 million (SG$500 million) towards digital transformation initiatives. F&B and retail businesses will be the first to receive a digital resilience bonus if they adopt digital solutions, and the budget will set aside funding to support partnerships between businesses and digital platform solution providers. The budget will additionally set aside an additional US$9.3 billion (SG$13 billion) towards the Contingencies Fund in the case of unforeseeable developments in Singapore’s COVID-19 situation. To read more about this update, click here.

Current Advocacy

  • US-ABC Advocacy Tracker
    In response to member feedback and in our effort to improve members' ability to plug into our many ongoing advocacy efforts, we have launched a simple Advocacy Tracker on the Council website. The Advocacy Tracker lists all active Call for Inputs with due dates and contacts for which Council staff to reach out to for more information. The tracker can be found on our website under the Members Only section. You may reach out to Kim Yaeger at kyaeger@usasean.org if you have any questions or feedback regarding the Advocacy Tracker.
  • Indonesia Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill Advocacy Engagement
    Amid the rapid development of the digital economy, the Indonesian Government drafted a Personal Data Protection Bill (PDP Bill) and provided it to the Parliament (DPR) on January 28, 2020. Currently, the Bill is awaiting deliberation by DPR’s Commission I. DPR has yet to announce the working committee members (Panitia Kerja/ Panja) to review the bill. DPR is currently gathering inputs into its Problem Inventory List (DIM) and is planning for a public hearing with various stakeholders (Rapat Dengar Pendapat). Following the Council’s submission of inputs on the Personal Data Protection Bill to DPR Commission I, the Council is strategizing the next advocacy steps on our engagement with the assistance from a third-party local organization with a proven track record engaging the DPR. This PDP Bill advocacy focuses on stakeholder engagement and process-oriented activities that will be conducted through a series of engagements with DPR members and expert staff. For members who would like to express their interest in this sponsorship or have any further questions, please contact Angga Antagia (aantagia@usasean.org) or Mario Masaya (mmasaya@usasean.org).
  • ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025 (ADM 2025) Framework
    The Council has submitted member input on the draft ASEAN Digital Masterplan 20205 (ADM 2025) Framework to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC, host of the 2020 Digital Ministers Meeting (ADGMIN). ASEAN intends to prepare the ADM 2025 for signing at the upcoming ADGMIN, tentatively scheduled for November 26-27, 2020. The document outlines potential theme options, intended outcomes and strategic thrusts for ASEAN for the 2021-2025 period. For more information, please contact Mario Masaya (mmasaya@usasean.org) and Natalie Tantisirirat (ntantisirirat@usasean.org).
  • ASEAN Cross Border Data Flows Mechanism
    In an effort to support ASEAN in implementing the ASEAN Framework on Digital Data Governance, the US-ABC ICT Sub-Committee on Data meeting on April 28 agreed to put together a short paper as key that we will submit to Singapore PDPC in an effort to help provide recommendations for ASEAN consider when implementing the recently-approved “ASEAN Cross Border Data Flows Mechanism”, which comprises the “dual-track” approach comprising ASEAN Certification and ASEAN Model Contractual Clauses. This recommendation paper attempts provide some of the key Council’s perspectives on these dual-track approach. The Council is seeking feedback from members on the attached short recommendation paper on key considerations for ASEAN when developing the “dual-track approach: ASEAN Certification and ASEAN Model Contractual Clauses.” The Council recognizes the intention behind this dual-track approach is to serve as a springboard for additional data transfer mechanisms to be adopted under the ASEAN Cross Border Data Flows Mechanism. The Council will send the recommendation paper to Singapore Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) as the focal point from ASEAN in this area. For more information please contact Mario Masaya (mmasaya@usasean.org) and Natalie Tantisirirat (ntantisirirat@usasean.org).
  • US-ABC Submission Letter on Singapore's Personal Data Protection (Amendment) Bill 2020
    On May 14, Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) released their public consultation on the draft Personal Data Protection (Amendment) Bill, including related amendments to the Spam Control Act (SCA). The Council has consolidated your feedback and sent a submission letter to the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) and the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI). Please contact Shay Wester (swester@usasean.org) and Natalie Tantisirirat (ntantisirirat@usasean.org) for additional information.
  • Draft Submission on Vietnam Amendments to Decree 72/2013
    The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) is drafting amendments to Decree 72 of 2013 on the management, provision and use of Internet services and online information. Among other things, the new Decree proposes to regulate foreign social media platforms, app store platforms, in-app transaction payments, and all other businesses that need to use user ID verification technologies via SMS, USSD or Livescreen. Thank you to those who submitted input to the Council. For more information please contact Vu Tu Thanh (tvu@usasean.org) and Natalie Tantisirirat (ntantisirirat@usasean.org).
  • COVID-19 Best Practices for the ICT Industry
    The Council has finalized its input on a set of COVID-19 best practices for the ICT industry to share with ASEAN governments and for consideration as input into the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025. This document outlines recommendations across four key thrusts: Protect, Sustain, Recover, and Transform. The document aims to highlight the contributions of the ICT sector and emphasize recommendations for a post-COVID-19 environment. Thank you for those who provided feedback to COVID-19 Best Practices document and the letter to ASEAN Digital Ministers. For more information please contact Mario Masaya (mmasaya@usasean.org) and Natalie Tantisirirat (ntantisirirat@us,asean.org).
  • Draft Submission on the 2020 ATRC Stakeholder Consultative Dialogue
    The Thailand Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will be hosting the 2020 ASEAN Telecommunications Regulators' Council's (ATRC) Stakeholder's Consultative Dialogue in Thailand on August 20-21, 2020. This is a continuation of our 2019 engagements with the ATRC on Over-the-Top (OTT) services. Currently, NBTC has yet to confirm that the ATRC Stakeholder Consultative Dialogue will still be held on August 20-21, 2020 in Bangkok. To prepare for the meeting, the Council will be holding a planning call on June 25 to help strategize key items that should be addressed and prioritized at the 2020 ATRC Stakeholder Consultative Dialogue and in the ASEAN Initiative for Facilitating Sustainable OTT Ecosystem. To register for the planning call, please click here. For more information please contact Mario Masaya (mmasaya@usasean.org) and Natalie Tantisirirat (ntantisirirat@usasean.org).
  • Report on Envisioning an ASEAN Single Market for E-Commerce
    The Council is working with KPMG to produce a report that will illustrate an ASEAN single market for e-commerce, to support ASEAN in achieving the objectives stipulated in the ASEAN Agreement on Electronic Commerce and the ASEAN Digital Integration Framework. The report, which is sponsored by UPS, Google, Amazon and Visa, is looking to conceptualize and propose implementable programs that would help solve the key barriers in logistics, customs clearance, payment systems, and digital infrastructure preventing a common regional market from developing. The report is being developed in close consultation with key stakeholders across the e-commerce ecosystem from trade, customs, banking and ICT sectors. The final output will be presented to the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Electronic Commerce (ACCEC) and serves as one of the Council's key deliverables this year for the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM). The Council will also explore other platforms to share the report, as well as engage with ASEAN policymakers and the ASEAN business community to turn this vision into reality. For more information, please contact Shay Wester at swester@usasean.org or Marcella Suwandhi at msuwandhi@usasean.org.
  • U.S. to Support Cambodia on Cybercrime Law
    During the meeting between US Ambassador Patrick Murphy and Cambodian Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on May 27, one of the key topics of discussion was the United States' support towards Cambodia’s efforts in finalizing its Cybercrime Law. In January 2020, Interior Ministry officials participated in a workshop hosted by experts from U.S. Department of Justice to discuss a range of issues including best practices, protecting online freedom and local innovation. Moreover, the U.S. Embassy has offered to faciliate engagement between leading U.S. technology firms and the Cambodian Government so that these firms can contribute to Cambodia's cybersecurity efforts as well as inform Cambodian authorities on how such laws impact U.S. investment decisions. According to the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Cybercrime Department Director, the draft law is expected to be completed this year. Member companies interested in offering feedback on this legislation should contact Jack Myint (jmyint@usasean.org).
  • Indonesia Certification Process for non-HKT products (products that are not Cellphones, Computers andTablets)
    Responding to the Council’s advocacy efforts, the Ministry of Communication Information and Technology (MCIT) has agreed to give flexibility on the certification process during the COVID-19 pandemic. Foreign companies will not have to submit test reports for the six months starting in April to October 2020. Contact Angga Antagia (aantagia@usasean.org) or Mega Valentina (mega@usasean.org) with any questions.
  • Indonesia Financial Service Implementing Regulation on Private Scope Electronic System Operators (GR 71)
    Following the inputs submitted to MCIT, the Council and its members held a conference call to discuss the development of GR 71 and will now prepare a letter to the Financial Services Authority (OJK). Contact Michaela Wong (mwong@usasean.org) or Steven Gunawan at (sgunawan@usasean.org) with any questions.
  • Indonesia E-commerce Regulation
    Following the Council’s letter containing recommendations from USABC members regarding the Government of Indonesia’s draft ministerial regulation on E-commerce, the Council has requested a virtual meeting with the Directorate General of Domestic Trade once they begin the public-private consultation stage. Contact Angga Antagia (aantagia@usasean.org) or Mega Valentina (mega@usasean.org) with any questions.
  • Indonesia Local Content Requirements & Calculation
    Two letters containing recommendations from USABC members have been submitted to MCIT regarding the regulation on local content requirements for ICT products and to the Ministry of Industry on the local content calculation. The Council has requested virtual engagements with both Ministries during the public-private consultation process. Contact Angga Antagia (aantagia@usasean.org) or Mega Valentina (mega@usasean.org) with any questions.
  • Indonesia Omnibus Bill on Job Creation
    The Council submitted a letter containing recommendations from USABC members regarding the Omnibus Bill on Job Creation to the Parliament and requested a consultation with the Legislative Body (Baleg) once they begin their deliberation process. Contact Angga Antagia (aantagia@usasean.org) or Mega Valentina (mega@usasean.org) with any questions.
  • Indonesia Telecommunications Service Regulation
    The Council provided recommendations from USABC members to the Government of Indonesia on their draft regulation on telecommunication services. The Council has also requested to hold a virtual discussion with the Director General of Post and Information once they have entered the consultation stage. Contact Angga Antagia (aantagia@usasean.org) or Mega Valentina (mega@usasean.org) with any questions.
  • Vietnam Draft Circular on Off Patent Originator Medicines
    The Council transmitted a letter to the Prime Minister of Vietnam regarding proposed changes to the government's policy regarding its procurement mechanism for all originator medicines including 149 OPO's which have multiple Group 1 generics substitutes. The letter advocates that the Government of Vietnam should not replace the current use of price negotiation for the procurement of all originator medicines and highlighted a range of likely negative effects on Vietnam's healthcare system from such a change. Contact Vu Tu Thanh (tvu@usasean.org) or Hai Pham (hpham@usasean.org) with any questions.
 

Media Highlights

 

American companies are doing their part in the global fight against COVID-19. In this special episode of the American Corporate Excellence (ACE) video series, find out what U.S. businesses in Singapore are doing to protect their employees and the community against COVID-19. Together, we will get through this. The ACE video series showcases American companies that have outstanding corporate social responsibility initiatives; high standards for quality, reliability, and partnership; produce innovative products and services; and employ and train exceptional individuals. ACE is brought to you by U.S. Embassy Singapore and the US-ASEAN Business Council.

 

Country and Industry Updates

See our most recent Updates and Analysis for more detail:

 

Questions? Please contact Jack Myint at jmyint@usasean.org

 

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