08 Sep ASEAN Today – Regional Legal and Business News – August 2017
ASEAN Today – Regional Legal and Business News for August 2017Download PDF
ASEAN Economic Community News
50 Years of ASEAN
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) turned 50 this month. In the last half century, the region has become the world’s sixth-largest economy with intra-regional trade totaling US$550 billion in 2015. To date, ASEAN’s greatest economic achievement is tariff reduction. The average percentage of tariff elimination for all ASEAN member countries was 96% in 2016 and is expected to be 98.7% in 2017. However, the growth of non-tariff measures has tripled in the last 15 years. To address the challenges in completing the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), ASEAN will pursue trade liberalization and behind-the-border reforms, policy harmonization, and integration of national single windows for cargo clearance into the ASEAN Single Window.
ASEAN-EU Action Plan
ASEAN and the European Union adopted a comprehensive plan of action for 2018-22 that focuses on enhancing strategic dialogue and deepening political and security cooperation, expanding trade, business and investment, increasing cooperation in education, academic and cultural exchanges, and other means to provide the maximum benefits to the citizens of both regions. ASEAN and the EU contain 18% of the world’s population and generate 26% of global GDP.
Ridesharing Tariffs Illegal
Last month, Indonesia’s government set new tariffs for all ridesharing services. Indonesia’s Supreme Court has now ruled that the new tariffs are illegal as they impede competition and also raised the price of fares. Experts believe that country is a key battleground for ridesharing companies due to its population size and young, internet-savvy demographic.
Politicians and business leaders in Myanmar say that the growth of local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is being impeded by numerous bureaucratic and administrative difficulties. These include little access to loans and high interest rates, inadequate intellectual property protection, and challenging tax and monetary policies.
A proposed new law for three special administrative-economic zones in Vietnam would create a proper legal framework and new development model for the zones. The new law would abolish people’s councils, increase land lease periods for foreign investors to 99 years, and permit the setup of casinos. Also included would be 4-year tax waivers, 30-year tax reductions, low land rents, and more flexible labor policies.
Singapore plans to modify its taxation system to keep up with digital disruptions and establish fair competition between traditional and digital businesses through tax neutrality. Having a consistent set of international tax standards that address the tax challenges of digitalization will encourage cross-border trade and investments.
Online Trademark Registration
Cambodia now has an online trademark registration system that will operate alongside its current manual registration system. Using the new paperless online system, applicants can upload all the required documents and information for trademark registration. The new system was designed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The new online system improves the existing registration system and reduces corruption.
4-Year Professional Visa
The Cabinet endorsed a plan to offer a 4-year Smart Visa to highly skilled professionals and investors. A Smart Visa holder will be able to live in Thailand with their families for four years without having to apply for a work permit. Visa holders would also only have to check in with the Immigration Bureau annually, instead of every 90 days. While Thai government officials have announced that the four-year visa will be introduced, at the present time, there is no fixed information from the government concerning the details, criteria, rules and regulations for such visa.
The Bank of Thailand issued its standardized quick response (QR) code for electronic money payments which will be adopted by international payment operators, banks, and non-bank financial institutions. This is part of Thailand’s plan to be a cashless society in the next three years. QR services are cheaper than payment with traditional cards and forgery and fraud are rare. Thailand’s government plans to only pay and receive money electronically by the end of 2018.
National Action Plan
The Commerce Ministry is drafting a national e-commerce strategy and action plan that will help Thailand’s e-commerce value to grow to THB5 trillion by 2021. At present, the total value of e-commerce in Thailand is THB2.5 trillion with an annual growth rate of 12.4%, the highest in ASEAN, and 27% of total e-commerce value in ASEAN.
Board of Investment
Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) believes there are great opportunities for Thai businesses in ASEAN’s CMLV countries, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. Investing into the CMLV countries has the potential to create a new production hub, reduce labor and material costs, and further open up the intra-ASEAN marketplace.
New Customs Act
Thailand’s new Customs Act will become effective in November 2017 and replace the current act which came into force in 1926. Under the new Act, liability presumptions were eliminated, rewards for whistleblowers were decreased and capped, cross-border cargo examination will now only take a maximum of 30 days, and procedures for post-clearance audits and appeals were streamlined.
Thailand Vietnam MOU
Thailand and Vietnam signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation on trade and investment, science and technology, banking and the establishment of sister cities between Thailand’s Trat and Vietnam’s Ca Mau provinces. Effective management and sustainable use of the Mekong River was also a subject of discussion.
As part of the activities to celebrate 130 years of Thai-Japanese relations, 500 Japanese companies will visit Thailand next month to further trade and economic cooperation, especially in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). Japan still ranks as Thailand’s top foreign investor.
Digital advertising spending in Thailand is forecast to reach THB12.2 billion in 2017, up 29% year on year. Brand owners and advertisers are moving away from advertising using traditional media. 80% of Thais use the internet every day and spend over 4 hours on a mobile device daily, so advertisers must capitalize on the expanding digital market.
Wine Tax Exemption
Under a new excise law, the tax exemption ceiling for wine has been raised to help reduce the tax burden on local wine makers. However, overseas wine producers will see fewer benefits as their retail prices are already much higher than local wines.
Thailand Legal Review
Sound Mark Registration
The Department of Intellectual Property issued the amended ministerial regulations for the Thai Trademark Act 2016. The new regulations are mostly minor changes and updates to practices and implementation. For example, now registration details cannot be amended after initial registration and for the partial assignment of a mark, the registration will be split and separate certificates issued. Of distinct note, with the release of the regulations, the registration of a sound mark is now available in Thailand. The registration of a sound mark will extend the scope of intellectual property protection in Thailand. The required information for sound mark registration, in addition to the information for a regular trademark filing, is as follows:
1. Description of the sound mark: the description regarding the musical notes, stave, or numbered musical notation should be included.
2. Recorded audio file to be submitted in the form of digital recording media (the recording media can be prepared from our side).
3. There are four main categories of sound; namely, human sound, animal sound, musical sound, and other sounds
To be registrable, the sound must not be able to provide a direct reference to the goods or be a natural sound in relation to the goods or be a sound caused by the operation of the goods.
National Reform Act
The National Reform Plans and Procedures Act B.E. 2560 came into force on August 1, 2017. Under the Act, national reform must attain three objectives: 1) to implement a sufficiency economy and a balance between material and spiritual development, 2) to eliminate wealth disparity, and 3) to provide Thai people a good quality of life and means of involvement in the country’s development. National reform under the Act must also follow the objectives of the National Strategic Action Plan.
11 sectors shall prepare national reform plans: politics, state administration, legislation, judicial process, education, economy, national resources and environment, public health, media and IT, society, and other sectors as determined. The reform plans must set out all mechanisms, procedures, and implementation stages and the timeframes for the desired results. State agencies are required to implement national reform plans within the timeframes listed in the plans.
Drafts of all reform plans must be completed within 90 days of the publication of the Act’s rules and procedures and sent to the National Strategy Committee which has 30 days to complete its review. The Cabinet will then have 30 days to approve the plan and send it to Parliament. The approval process should take around 240 days in total.
The Thai government deposited its instruments of accession with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) this month, and the Montreal Convention of 1999 will come into force in Thailand on October 2, 2017. The Montreal Convention is a multilateral treaty that establishes airline liability in the case of death or injury to passengers and damage or loss of baggage and cargo. It unifies all of the different international treaty regimes covering airline liability.
The material contained herein is only provided for information purposes. No part thereof may be deemed to constitute legal advice or the opinions of this law firm or any of its attorneys. Whilst every effort has been made to verify the contents of the material contained herein, we do not represent, warrant, undertake or guarantee that the information contained in this newsletter is correct, accurate, or complete. Legal advice must be sought before acting on any information contained herein.