President Newsletter - October 2020

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

October 2020

 Dear Members,

I hope you and your families remain safe and healthy. We are encouraged to see that U.S. President Donald Trump and the first family have recovered from COVID-19, and we continue to keep those suffering from COVID-19 across the United States and ASEAN in our thoughts and prayers.

Thousands of Thai citizens, including many students, continued a series of mostly peaceful public protests in Bangkok. The Cabinet formally approved Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s emergency decree for a one month ban on large public protests beginning October 15 to control the protests. However, the ban was then lifted by the Prime Minister on October 22. Under the emergency decree, the government had banned political demonstrations and gatherings of five or more people, and the publication of news or online messages that could harm national security. Last week, protesters continued to assemble in defiance of the decree with demonstrations that blocked key thoroughfares in the inner business district. Supporting rallies took place in other locations around the country over the weekend. A government spokesman said on Sunday that Prime Minister Prayut recognized the right to peaceful protest but said demonstrations must be held in accordance with the law. Following the lifting of the decree, the PM said that "everyone should take a step back in the conflict between the government and the anti-government movement." Thailand’s new Governor of the Bank of Thailand, Governor Setthaput Suthiwart-Narueput, also raised concerns that a continuation of the protests could have a negative impact on Thailand’s economic recovery, particularly in the areas of domestic consumption and tourism. Council staff continues to monitor the situation on the ground and will keep members apprised on future developments.

At the direction of President Trump, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced that it is initiating a Section 301 investigation on Vietnam to address two issues: i) the undervaluation of Vietnamese currency and the harm caused to U.S. commerce, and ii) the import and use of timber that is illegally harvested or traded. On October 8, the USTR submitted two Federal Register notices (Currency Valuation Investigation and Timber Investigation) that provided details of the investigation and information on how members of the public can provide their views through written submissions by November 12. Vietnam has had strong trade relations with the United States, but this bilateral trade imbalance is one of the largest and fastest growing in the world. While U.S. exports to Vietnam have grown significantly, particularly agricultural exports, U.S. imports from Vietnam have grown even faster over the last couple of years, and thus increasing the trade deficit – a sticking point for the Administration. In fact, Vietnam’s trade deficit with the US is now the 4th largest in the world for the United States. We intend to submit comments to USTR on how this will affect U.S. companies doing business in Vietnam. If you have any questions or input on a submission, please contact Hai Pham at hpham@usasean.org.

As you may know, the Council’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force is off to a running start. With over twenty Council members signed up so far, the Task Force in partnership with KPMG will develop tangible, measurable deliverables to support ASEAN’s economic recovery. The Task Force has identified three areas of focus: Improving Health Outcomes; Restoring Confidence in the Domestic Consumption Economy; and Sustainable Economic Recovery, which are each enabled by digitalization and financial services. The Council intends to secure an opportunity for senior executives from Task Force member companies to present our outcomes to ASEAN leaders including US business support for a “bouncing forward” economic recovery agenda in 2021.

We successfully began our virtual Malaysia Business Mission on October 5, despite the recent Conditional Movement Control Order implemented in select areas of the country. Twenty-three companies participated and joined meetings with key ministers and government officials from the Perikatan Nasional Government that came into office in March this year. During our engagements with the government officials, we discussed the new administration’s plans and priorities and presented the Council and our delegation as committed stakeholders to Malaysia’s dynamic and inclusive growth as the country continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the rising challenges from the pandemic and the Movement Control Orders (MCOs), the delegation urged the government to take a transparent, consultative process to policy making and to establish clear governance and regulatory frameworks for industries as the country attempts to recover from the economic disruptions caused by Covid-19. Among other meetings, the Council had an opportunity to discuss COVID-19 stimulus and the 2021 national budget with Malaysian Finance Minister YM Tengku Dato’ Sri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz. The 2021 Budget is expected to be unveiled on November 6. At this moment, some meetings with government officials were postponed due to scheduling complications. We will be continuing the mission when we are able to reschedule postponed meetings.

Our virtual Indonesia Business Mission delegation of thirty-one companies which began this week continues to meet with key government officials and local business chambers this week. Our timing could not have been better as we are meeting with the Cabinet on the first anniversary of the start of President Joko Widodo’s second term. During our last meeting with President Jokowi in December 2019, the President announced that he would pass omnibus laws which would transform Indonesia’s business environment within the first year of his second term. The Omnibus Law on Job Creation was passed in Parliament on October 5th – fifteen days before the end of the first year. While the Omnibus Law has sparked mass protests by labor unions in Jakarta, from a business perspective, it is transformative and will improve the economic climate for doing business by simplifying licensing and regulation as well as eliminating the negative investment list and opening most sectors of the economy for foreign direct investment. It will also create a sovereign wealth fund for Indonesia. Throughout the mission we have focused on how Indonesia can harness innovation and technology to support economic revival post COVID-19 and urged the Jokowi administration to continue its efforts to undertake fundamental regulatory and bureaucratic reform in order to help build a favorable environment for quality job creation, supply chains and healthcare. Among other important meetings, the Council met with the Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Vice Minister Suahasil Nazara as well as other senior officials of the Ministry where we covered COVID-19 response, the Omnibus Law on Job Creation, tax reform and the digital economy. While the Indonesian economy is expected to shrink significantly in 2020, Minister Sri Mulyani remind us why she is consistently named one of the world’s best Finance Ministers. Having served twice as Indonesia’s Finance Minister and as the Chief Operating officer of the World Bank, Minister Sri Mulyani has the experience to guide Indonesia through crisis including having been finance minister during the Great Recession from 2008-09. Early this year she took deceive action including encouraging the passage of the Emergency Law which allowed coordination between Bank Indonesia, OJK (the Financial Regulator) and the Ministry of Finance as well as allow Indonesia to remove the budget deficit cap until 2023 which allows the Ministry of Finance run a budget deficit of 6.3% to finance stimulus packages.

On October 2, the Council met with all ten ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors at the ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting (AFMGM) for the 21st consecutive year as part of its annual business mission. Subsequently, we were also able to create a series of individual virtual engagements for our members with Finance Ministers and/or Central Bank Governors from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam respectively. During the meetings, our delegation delivered key findings from two advocacy focused white papers on Sustainable Finance and Digital Transformation of Financial Services and COVID-19: Financial Response and Recovery in ASEAN. The meetings also provided members with a greater understanding of how the priorities of various Ministries of Finance were shifting in the COVID-19 environment.

For the 6th consecutive year, the Council’s Food & Agricultural Committee virtually attended the plenary session of the 42nd ASEAN Ministry of Agricultural and Forestry Ministers meeting. Our delegation led by executives from Elanco, MSD, Corteva, and Cargill made a presentation to the ten ASEAN Agricultural Ministers on the US private sector’s continued support for the safety, sustainability, and security of ASEAN’s agriculture and food systems. Given the increased challenges to agricultural sectors generated by COVID-19, Council members urged ASEAN Member States to implement reforms to enable faster adoption of innovations in plant science, harmonize international based regulatory standards on MRL’s to facilitate cross border agricultural trade flows, and to continue support for public-private partnerships to implement global One Health One Welfare animal health efforts in ASEAN.

This past month, numerous ASEAN leaders addressed the 75th meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations. While COVID-19 was the most common topic raised, several ASEAN leaders used their addresses to highlight the following: The importance of the multilateral trading system to global economic growth, the value of regional cooperation in combating COVID-19, and the need to address climate change at the global level. Click on each country to access its leader’s UNGA speech: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.

 

Country, Industry and Advocacy Updates

 

COVID-19 Update

Brunei
As of October 14, 2020, there was one new case of COVID-19 in Brunei Darussalam. This new case came after multiple weeks of no new infections present within the nation. Furthermore, this new case was brought into the nation from a woman on her flight from Nepal. All other individuals in contact with her have already been confirmed negative for COVID-19. This case brought the total number of COVID-19 cases in Brunei Darussalam to 147. In regard to international travel, Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) has announced its Brunei to London flight schedules for October 2020 to January 2021. However, RBA has suspended most of its routes until October 25 due to travel restrictions in other Asian countries. Brunei’s social distancing orders have remained the same since September 2020. The only new order that has come into effect is the Exit and Entry Charges Order 2020. Under this Order, a Service Charge of BND3 per person for a one-way trip and BND6 per person for a return trip will be imposed on citizens, residents, and foreigners travelling through land border checkpoints, regardless if they are traveling by vehicle or on foot.

Cambodia
Cambodia is steadily maintaining its COVID-19 situation. Even as Cambodia’s COVID-19 cases have been creeping up with single digits every few days, its recovery rate has improved. Both international and domestic flights are operating but foreign travelers are still required to follow the COVID-19 entry, testing, quarantine, and treatment requirements. Local public transportations are also beginning to operate again. Many of the government services and businesses have resumed normal operations, while restrictions remain in place for large meetings and gatherings. Construction and infrastructure projects have also resumed their operations. On October 12, the Ministry of Education made an announcement to reopen public universities while practicing strict social distancing and other safety measures.

Indonesia
With nearly 350,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of October 15, Indonesia this month surpassed the Philippines as ASEAN’s worst-affected country by the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes despite the reimposition of large-scale social distancing measures in Jakarta – Indonesia’s COVID-19 epicenter – and elsewhere in mid-September. In the month between September 15 and October 15, Indonesia’s total number of infections increased by 125,000, and to date, the country’s death toll stands at 12,268. The provinces that have thus far recorded the highest volume of daily increases in cases in October have been West Papua, Central and West Java, and South and Central Sulawesi. In another positive development, Indonesia and Singapore recently agreed to establish a travel corridor for essential diplomatic and business personnel, which will come into effect on October 26.

Moreover, on October 14, Indonesia secured 100 million doses of a prospective COVID-19 vaccine currently being developed by British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca. The vaccine doses are scheduled to be delivered to Indonesia in 2021. Meanwhile, an Indonesian national consortium of companies under the auspices of the Research and Technology Ministry is in the process of developing a domestically produced COVID-19 vaccine.

Laos
Laos has only recorded 24 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak in January, with the most recent case reported on October 21. Although COVID-19 prevention measures are in place until October 31, the National Task Force Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control announced on October 2 that charter flights with countries not experiencing an outbreak would be allowed to resume in principle, to help mitigate the virus’ economic impact on the tourism sector. Additionally, Japan extended its travel bubble to include Laos and four other Asian countries on September 15, which would allow short-term business travelers to enter Japan subject to a 14-day quarantine. A bilateral fast-track immigration policy is also being considered with Vietnam and China, under which diplomatic staff and technical experts could travel to and from Laos and the partner country without having to undergo quarantine. Despite the country’s low case load, the Lao government is still urging citizens to be vigilant and observe social distancing measures.

Malaysia
Following the September election in Sabah, Malaysia saw a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks, resulting in a total of 18,129 cases, with 12,014 recovered, and 170 deaths so far. This drastic increase in cases resulted in the National Security Council (NSC) implementing the Conditional Movement Control Orders (CMCOs) in Sabah, Selangor, Putrajaya, and Kuala Lumpur on October 12. CMCOs in Selangor, Putrajaya, and Kuala Lumpur took effect on October 14 and will last until October 27. In Sabah, the CMCO took effect on October 13 and will be in place until October 26. Businesses and economic activities are allowed to continue operating as usual in Sabah, Selangor, Putrajaya, and Kuala Lumpur as long as they adhere to the stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs). Certain activities including wedding receptions, sports, recreational, social, and cultural activities are prohibited in these regions while the CMCOs are in effect. Schools, skill training centers, tahfiz centers, parks, nurseries, mosques, and other places of worship have closed in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Myanmar
With Myanmar’s second wave of COVID-19 cases have increased significantly. In terms of travel restrictions, the temporary suspension of both international and domestic flights has been extended until October 31, 2020. However, the quarantine measures have changed. Instead of having to quarantine for 21 days at the government facility upon arrival, travelers are required to undergo quarantine at government facility for seven days followed by self-quarantine at home for seven additional days. Curfews were resumed in most of the townships in Yangon. While most restaurants and recreational activities have been currently suspended, some of the factories and small businesses have started resuming operations since October 12. Construction works were halted since the third week of September. However, the government has recently allowed projects to resume if the sites are compliant with the safety measures. On economic stimulus, the Ministry for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations (MIFER) has approved more COVID-19 funds totaling Ks 21 billion and distributed to 1,200 businesses. On the other hand, the general election will still take place as scheduled on November 8 while taking close safety precautions. The Union Election Commission is devising a plan that would allow elderly people over 60 years old, to be able to vote in advance and from home, especially those in areas where COVID-19 infection rates are high.

Philippines
On September 28, President Rodrigo Duterte placed Lanao del Sur Province including its capital, Marawi City under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) effective October 1 until October 31, 2020. This made Lanao del Sur the only area in the country under MECQ. Meanwhile, Lloilo City have transitioned from MECQ to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) on October 1. The National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) which comprises of sixteen cities and one town will stay under GCQ. The other areas that are still under GCQ are Batangas province for Luzon; Tacloban City and Bacolod City for the Visayas; and Iligan City for Mindanao. The rest of the country will be placed under MGCQ or the quarantine level with less strict protocols implemented. Moreover, Baguio City along with the other four provinces in Region 1 and Boracay beach have partially reopened for both foreign and domestic tourists since October 1. However, open-air tourism will be the concentration for most of these places. Hence, major airlines are resuming daily flights between Manila and Caticlan to cater to Boracay-bound tourists.

Singapore
Singapore is seeing few new daily cases in the past weeks although the country’s Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level stays at Orange. On October 13, Singapore recorded the first zero local transmission since February, recording zero community case and zero dormitory case. On October 19, Singapore saw another zero local transmission. Although one new death was recorded on October 12, bringing Singapore’s total death toll to 28 since the pandemic began, it has been several months since the previous recorded death. In light of the positive conditions on the ground, the Singaporean government recently reopened its border to essential travel. The country recently announced a new Reciprocal Green Lane arrangement with Indonesia. To date, Singapore has special travel arrangements with Australia, Brunei, China, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Moreover, bigger crowd activities such as school and religious activities have now resumed under certain measures. Despite the current situation being under control, the government continues to implement strict health protocols and provide more testing, offering COVID-19 tests to 45,000 cleaners, food delivery workers, and hawkers.

Thailand
Thailand has continued to record small numbers of imported cases daily, with a current case total of just over 3,600 cases. The COVID-19 state of emergency was extended through the end of November, and a state of emergency banning gatherings of more than five people was also declared for Bangkok, effective 4AM on October 15, in response to recent pro-democracy protests. The travel and tourism industry have continued to suffer from the ongoing commercial flight ban, and the Ministry of Public Health has proposed a new type of Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) that would allow short-term visitors from low-risk countries to travel to designated areas during their 14-day quarantine. Tourism provinces such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, and Rayong have shown great interest in offering the proposed ASQ. A quarantine exemption for VIP investors is also being discussed by the Center for Economic Situation Administration, in a bid to attract foreign investors back to Thailand to help economic recovery.

Vietnam
As of October 22, Vietnam has gone 50 days without community transmissions and no longer has any seriously ill COVID-19 patients under treatment in the country, according to the Ministry of Health. Vietnam continues its effort to reopen the country and transition into a new normal. After resuming international flights to selected destinations, the Ministry of Transport plans to open nine additional international flights landing in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City’s international airports to increase the frequency of flights to those destinations. Passengers, Vietnamese citizens and foreigners included, must continue to follow safety protocols to travel abroad. Vietnam and Japan have also agreed to implement an expedited arrival procedure for short-term entrants from November 1, lifting mandatory quarantine requirement for people from either country who are going on trips shorter than 14 days for the purposes of investment, trade, diplomacy, official businesses or highly skilled workers.

 

Key Developments

  • Indonesian Defense Minister’s Visit Focused on US-Indonesia Defense Cooperation
    On October 19, Indonesian Defense Minister, Prabowo Subianto, concluded a series of bilateral security talks with top officials at the Pentagon, after arriving in Washington, D.C., earlier last week. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Prabowo and U.S. Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, discussed a range of issues related to regional security, bilateral defense priorities, and defense acquisitions. The two also expressed a desire to enhance military-to-military cooperation. Prior to being appointed Defense Minister in 2019, Prabowo had long been denied a visa to the United States over allegations of his involvement in human rights abuses that occurred in the final years of the Suharto regime in the late 1990s. However, after Prabowo assumed the role of Defense Minister late last year, military observers contended that a continuation of the visa ban had the potential to inhibit U.S.-Indonesia defense relations, and subsequently Indonesian procurements of U.S.-made systems. The ban was later rescinded in early 2020. According to the Indonesian Defense Ministry, Prabowo appreciates the U.S.’ “critical role in maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” and that this week’s mission was intended to “[explore] how our two militaries can work together in the future to ensure our mutual interests are protected.” After being slashed by nearly US $600 million in 2020, Indonesia's defense spending is set to rise to US$ 9.2 billion in 2021 - a 16.2 percent increase compared to this year's original defense budget. Due to the significance of these bilateral defense talks, the US-ASEAN Business Council will be publishing an analytical update on this topic in the coming days. To read more, click here.
  • Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim Strengthens His Claim To Form New Government
    On October 13, 2020, Anwar Ibrahim strengthened his claim of having obtained "strong, formidable and convincing" support from Members of Parliament (MPs) to form a new government. On September 23, 2020, Anwar claimed that he had obtained the support of "close to" two-thirds majority in the lower House of Parliament, including MPs currently part of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government. Now, on October 13, 2020 Anwar reaffirmed this claim by providing the documentation to prove that he had secured the majority support of MPs to form a government. Specifically, Anwar claimed that he had the support of more than 120 MPs. During a meeting on October 13 with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King), Anwar would not disclose the identifies of his MP supporters, only the number. Due to the documentation supporting Anwar’s claim, PM Muhyiddin Yassin has chosen to defer to the King for a final decision on the claim. To date, the King has chosen not to take any actions regarding Anwar’s claim. In addition, last week former Prime Minister Mahathir stated he did not believe Anwar had the support of a majority of members in the Parliament and submitted a motion in Parliament to hold a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Muhyiddin when Parliament meets in November and noted that in his opinion. To read more, click here.
  • Southeast Asia remains cautious over tourism reopening, opens opportunities for digital transformation
    Southeast Asia’s borders have remained largely closed even though other regions like Europe have seen travel-related activities lifted. The unpredictability of infections has largely discouraged authorities from opening their borders more quickly although the pandemic remains largely under control in large parts of Southeast Asia. ASEAN governments are trying schemes such as special tourist visas for long-stay travelers in Thailand and travel bubbles to test the safety of reopening. Thailand is keeping its sights on for possible travel bubbles in the future, which would allow residents from specific countries such as Singapore and China to travel back and forth to Thailand. Singapore is progressively reopening limited safe travel arrangements with other countries, including its Southeast Asian neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and most recently, Indonesia. Brunei, Cambodia, and Vietnam have resumed some international flights. However, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Timor-Leste remain closed to foreign arrivals. Non-essential travel for leisure and tourism is not allowed in the Philippines. To read more, click here.
  • Creating the Malaysian 2021 Budget
    The Malaysian government is currently in the process of creating the government’s 2021 Budget. Scheduled to be tabled on November 6, 2020, the 2021 Budget will be centered on four key areas. The first being targeted support for economically vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. The second area will focus on supporting industries through specific incentives once recovery measures are implemented. The other two areas include empowering service delivery and developing sustainable living. The 2021 Budget will also focus on revitalizing the economy, protecting the lives and livelihood of Malaysian citizens, and building on the current economic recovery momentum from the recent RM205 billion economic stimulus packages. The 2021 Budget will have a combination of business-friendly policies, constructive fiscal management, and effective transformation tools to help with building Malaysia’s resilience against future economic shocks. Other focuses of the 2021 Budget include supporting SMEs and mid-tier companies in key sectors that are still reeling from the impact of COVID-19. Furthermore, the government will work on ensuring a stable and conducive environment for Foreign Direct Investment to continue and to generate value-added returns. To read more, click here.
  • Philippines to Train Digitally Capable Workforce, Proposes to Increase DICT 2021 Budget
    As countries continue to digitize the economy to enhance business competitiveness and transition into “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines aims to empower the digital workforce and fast track digital transformation. Philippine senators on September 15 pushed for the passage of the proposed Philippine Digital Workforce Competitiveness Act, which aims to equip Filipinos with urgently needed digital skills to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and workforce needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Through the creation of an Inter-Agency Council for Development and Competitiveness of the Philippine Digital Workforce to plan and coordinate a cross-governmental approach, the proposed law will enable the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to help 500,000 unemployed Filipinos become globally competitive digital workers for the year 2022. Business associations strongly support the law, especially after the Philippines slipped in the IMD business school’s World Digital Competitiveness Ranking. To read more, click here.
  • 5G Development in ASEAN: Thailand Huawei Partnership, Lao and Philippines Rollout 5G, Singapore to Create Job in 5G Industry
    ASEAN member states continue to push forward with 5G modernization plans. Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES), Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), and Huawei on September 21 opened the Thailand 5G Ecosystem Innovation Center (5G EIC) in Bangkok to accelerate 5G innovation through ecosystem collaboration and boost the digital economy. Thailand is among the first countries in ASEAN to successfully deploy commercial 5G networks and the 5G EIC poises to help Thailand take advantage of the head start. Lao and the Philippines in September launched their first 5G networks. On September 2, Lao Telecommunications (Lao Telecom) officially launched its 5G network, the first in the country, after testing the system since October 2019. In the Philippines, mobile services provider Smart Communications, Inc. launched the initial phase of its commercial 5G rollout and becomes the first 5G provider in the Philippines. Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) announced on September 29 that it will hire or reskill 1,000 professionals to support Singapore’s 5G rollout under the Techskills Accelerator initiative. Looking forward, the Council expects ASEAN countries to continue rolling our national 5G programs designed to extend connectivity domestically and increase their digital competitiveness globally. To read more, click here.
  • Laos committed to exiting UN’s Least Developed Country list despite challenges
    In a video conference with the UN Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries on September 8, Lao Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Thongphane Savanphet reaffirmed Laos’ commitment to graduate from LDC status by 2024. The original government target for graduation had been set for 2020. A UN review of Laos’ status is set to take place in early 2021. LDCs are judged by three criteria—the human asset index, economic vulnerability, and GNI per capita—and Laos has yet to meet the second criterion. The Lao government has identified economic development as a key priority for the country, and the poverty rate in Laos has fallen from 46% to 18% between 1992 and 2020. Although Laos has recorded 6-7% annual growth from 2016 to the present, the World Bank has predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause a GDP contraction of 1-1.8% this year, and between 96,000 and 214,000 people are expected to fall into poverty as a result. In a worst-case scenario outlook, growth will only rebound to an average of 2.5% over the next two years. There are also concerns that Laos’ reclassification will affect trading privileges and the foreign aid that it receives, with the garment sector to be hardest hit if Laos no longer qualifies or special tariff allowances. In several dialogues with the government officials during the Council’s recent business mission to Laos, the successful conclusion of the RCEP negotiations, digital economy development, and capacity building efforts to expand opportunities for Laos to participate in the ASEAN Economic Community were noted as key elements for economic recovery in 2021. To read more, click here.
  • Vietnam Prime Minister Launches Nationwide Campaign to Support Businesses, Approves 30 Percent Corporate Income Tax (CIT) cut
    Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has issued Decision 1322/QĐ-TTg to approve the national program to help domestic businesses to improve productivity and quality of products and goods over the next ten years as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Vietnam. The program supports enterprises to improve their efficiency between 2020 and 2030, sets the goal of supporting enterprises by applying solutions of standards, technology, management systems, and improvement tools, increasing the proportion of the total factor productivity (TFP) to economic growth, and improve efficiency and competitiveness of the economy. In the 2021-25 period, the program aims to have the harmonization rate of the national standard system with international standards and regional standards reach about 65 percent. It also targets training and certifying about 600 quality productivity experts at ministries, agencies, localities, and enterprises. To realize these goals, the program will promote guidance on the application of management systems, productivity, and quality improvement tools, especially supportive tools for smart production and services in enterprises. In addition, it will build and develop a database of good productivity practices to serve businesses and other related databases. Alongside the national program, the Prime Minister has also issued Decree No.114/2020/NP-CP to reduce corporate income tax (CIT) by 30 percent. To read more, click here.
 

Current Advocacy

  • Singapore PDPC Update on Draft Advisory Guidelines on the Enhanced Consent Framework
    The Personal Data Protection (Amendment) Bill was introduced to Singapore’s Parliament for its First Reading on October 5. Once the bill passes the Parliament, the associated Advisory Guidelines on the Enhanced Consent Framework will be published. The Council has received an advance draft of these Advisory Guidelines, which incorporates feedback from our August 5 submission. Please contact Shay Wester (swester@usasean.org) and Ryan DelGaudio (rdelgaudio@usasean.org) for copies of the draft guidelines and three associated annexes. On behalf of PDPC, we remind members these documents are confidential and may only be used for internal reference
  • Proposed Paper on Security and Privacy Considerations for Contact Tracing
  • As discussed on our recent ICT Committee Call, the Council plans to draft a paper on Security and Privacy Considerations for Contact Tracing. In the current moment, many ASEAN member states are considering or already implementing contact tracing applications and infrastructure to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for any contact tracing technology to secure the public trust and be effective, cybersecurity and data privacy issues must be addressed. In this context, the Council has the opportunity to help educate ASEAN governments on security and privacy considerations that should be examined as they contemplate introducing or continue to roll out these contact tracing initiatives. We invite members to offer feedback on the distributed Concept Note as well as draft language on proposed topics to Shay Wester (swester@usasean.org) and Ryan DelGaudio (rdelgaudio@usasean.org).
  • Indonesia Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill Advocacy
    The Council is still working on the PDP Bill advocacy by partnering with a local organization in conducting virtual workshops for the Parliament (DPR) members’ expert staff. Two virtual workshops which focus on the drafting process of the Bill have been held. DPR Members’ expert staff participated in these workshops with speakers from legal and industry backgrounds providing insights on the PDP Bill’s key topics covering the scope of personal data, data subjects’ rights, personal data processing and regulation implementation. The Parliament is currently on recess until 8 November and the Council is planning to organize another workshop during this period. The next meeting to deliberate the revision proposals in the problem inventory list (DIM) is scheduled on the Parliament’s next session (9 November-11 December). Please reach out to Angga Antagia (aantagia@usasean.org) or Mario Masaya (mmasaya@usasean.org) for any questions.
  • Philippine AI Pilipinas Coalition Launched
    Recently, AI Pilipinas Coalition was launched on October 7, 2020 to present an AI Action Plan to the Department of Trade and Industry and it was well-received by DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez. While the DTI has AI in its Innovation plans, banding together with key organizations could pro-actively move the AI needle and assist DTI to operationalize its plans. With the government’s thrust to go digital and its desire for the country to recover from the pandemic at a level where it can take advantage of technologies and workforce reskilling, the AI Pilipinas Coalition is a way to help shape the future and engage and explore PPP collaboration. Microsoft is spearheading the organization of the Coalition and hopes to see other US-ABC companies actively engage and support this initiative. AI Pilipinas Coalition organizations include lead organization Makati Business Club (MBC), Infocomm Technology Association of the Philippines (ITAP), Institute of Corporate Directors (ICDPH), Women’s Business Council Philippines (WomenBiz.ph), and US-ASEAN Business Council. As one of the founding organizations, the Council has submitted input to an AI paper in February. For more information, please contact Elizabeth “Maxie” Magsaysay-Crebasa (em.crebasa@usaean.org) and Kim Yaeger (kyaeger@usasean.org).
  • Vietnam Ministry of Information and Communications Proposes Tightening Control on Cross-Border Online Advertising
    On August 17, the Government of Vietnam published a draft revision of Decree 181 of 2013 to tighten control on cross-border online advertising. Drafted by the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), which has been taking aggressive steps against cross-border digital platforms to ensure internet content control, the new decree aims to specify liabilities and responsibilities of foreign advertising platforms such as social media, search engines and apps as the latter provide ad services targeting audiences in Vietnam. The new decree will affect both advertising platforms and advertisers. The Council has compiled members’ input and submitted a letter to the MIC. To see a copy or if you have any questions, please contact Vu Tu Thanh (tvu@usasean.org) and Mario Masaya (mmasaya@usasean.org).
  • Vietnam Draft Implementing Decree of the Law on Cybersecurity
    The Council recently learned that the Ministry of Public Security of Vietnam (MPS) has completed the latest Draft Implementing Decree of the Law on Cybersecurity and has submitted this version to the Government for approval. On September 11, the Council organized a meeting with members to discuss the latest developments on the latest Draft Decree and the future advocacy strategy. As a follow-up to this meeting, the Council is joining the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam to send a Joint Letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to share our concerns on the latest draft and request for the Draft Decree to be shared with industry for further consultation before it is voted on. To see a copy or if you have any questions or comments, please contact Vu Tu Thanh (tvu@usasean.org) and Mario Masaya (mmasaya@usasean.org).
  • ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025 Questionnaire
    The Council recently invited members to complete an online stakeholder questionnaire commissioned by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to inform the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025 (ADM 2025). MCMC sought inputs from relevant agencies, institutions, and industry stakeholders on the current and future state of ICT in ASEAN. Please contact Mario Masaya (mmasaya@usasean.org) with any questions about this matter.
  • Call for Input: US-ABC Energy Whitepaper
    Following the previous Energy Committee Call on the planning of developing a whitepaper on Energy, the Council has developed an outline with the following sections:
  • Section 1: At a Glance: US-ABC Members Companies' support in the development of energy in ASEAN
    Section 2: ASEAN Energy Sector amidst COVID 19: Bouncing Forward
    Section 3: Renewable energy, Innovation, and Sustainability
    Section 4: Energy Infrastructure, Financing, and Partnership
    The whitepaper will be submitted to the ASEAN Members States and stakeholders during the Business Missions and other related engagements.
    Please submit any inputs, recommendations, and comments in the matrix attached to Angga Antagia (aantagia@usasean.org) and Kim Yaeger (kyaeger@usasean.org).

     
  • Tourism Advocacy
    October 9, the Council was invited to participate in the ASEAN NTOs Retreat on Mid-Term Review of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP 2016-2025). The Council and Travel and Tourism Committee leadership weighed in the ATSP 2016-2025 Draft Work Plan and gave policy recommendations to highlight the pivotal role of the greater travel and tourism ecosystem in ASEAN economic recovery, to lend support to digital transformation in skilling and re-skilling tourism workers and SMEs, and to institutionalize better dialogue and coordination with health agencies to standardize health practices to boost a return to travel and business confidence.
  • On September 21, the Council attended the 52nd Meeting of the ASEAN National Tourism Organizations (52ndASEAN NTOS) as part of the formal agenda on cooperation with organizations associated with ASEAN.SVP and Regional Managing Director Ambassador Michael Michalak (ret.) updated ASEAN NTOs on activities supporting ASEAN tourism and members shared insights and trends in the travel and tourism sector during COVID-19.
    On September 11, the Council hosted the ASEAN Tourism Digital Economy Workshop in coordination with the ASEAN Secretariat and the ASEAN Tourism Competitiveness Committee ATCC Chair, Philippines Tourism Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon Jr. US-ABC Chairman, President & CEO Alexander Feldman gave Welcome Remarks; Cambodia NTO DG Rathasak gave Opening Remarks; US-ABC SVP Ambassador Michael Michalak moderated a virtual fireside chat and 3 workshop sessions sponsored by Expedia, Adobe, Airbnb& Visa. It can be recalled that these opportunities to collaborate and advocate member priorities in this sector were made possible through regular engagement with tourism officials at the Ministerial level on a regional and bilateral basis starting with the ASEAN Tourism Ministers’ Meeting (M-ATM) every January since 2018, the virtual Tourism Minister series in 2020, and the annual country business missions.
 

Multimedia

Ambassador Michael Michalak Speaks about Vietnam Section 301 Investigation on Bloomberg Markets

In a live interview with Bloomberg Markets on October 2, Ambassador Michael Michalak, USABC Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director, and former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, speaks on how the Trump Administration’s plans to announce an investigation into Vietnam’s currency practices would affect the bilateral relations and trade.

Alex Feldman Presents at the Selangor ASEAN Business Conference

USABC Chairman, President & CEO Alex Feldman joins the opening panel of the Selangor ASEAN Business Conference to discuss Malaysia’s prospects for growth in an era of global trade uncertainty.

Alex Feldman Presents at the Selangor ASEAN Business Conference


USABC Chairman, President & CEO Alex Feldman discusses economic recovery in ASEAN, as well as business and investment trends for the region in a podcast episode with US-Asia Institute’s Asia Unscripted.

 

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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