ASEAN Today – Regional Legal and Business News – March 2018

ASEAN Today – Regional Legal and Business News for March 2018

ASEAN Economic Community News

Digital Trade Standards Initiative
At the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit held in Sydney this month, the Australian Prime Minister announced a new joint initiative with the ASEAN member countries to promote digital trade and support inclusive economic growth in the region. The ASEAN-Australia Digital Trade Standards provides the framework for Australia and the ten ASEAN member states to cooperate in developing, adopting, and using international standards that will allow the region to secure the full economic and social benefits of the digital economy. As digitalization benefits need to be equally shared, the initiative will also build regional regulatory consistency in a context of rapid technological diversity and change.

Sustainable Infrastructure
A new ASEAN body, the Lead Implementing Body for Sustainable Infrastructure (LIB-SI), was established to strengthen infrastructure development efforts and regional cooperation. ASEAN requires an annual infrastructure investment of more than US$110 billion to meet the needs of its member countries. Accordingly, ASEAN is developing a wide range of infrastructure projects, improving infrastructure productivity, and formulating innovative approaches to sustainable urbanization.

Indonesia Update
European Union Palm Oil Ban
The European Union (EU) has approved the draft measures of a ban on palm oil imports for use in biofuels that will come into effect in 2021. This will have serious repercussions for Indonesia and Malaysia who produce 90% of global palm oil output. The EU cites concerns over the sustainability of the palm oil industry for the ban. In Indonesia, palm oil makes up over 10% of the country’s total exports.

Vietnam News
Whitebook 2018
A recent report by the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam praises Vietnam’s ongoing economic growth and administrative development and the government’s role in facilitating it. The government has cut over 5,000 administrative procedures in recent years. However, the report also highlighted areas that need improvement and listed sixteen problems for doing business in Vietnam including access to financing, a poorly educated workforce, and corruption.

Malaysia Watch
Anti-Fake News Bill
New legislation proposed by Malaysia’s government to outlaw fake news will carry stiff penalties for offenders. The anti-fake news bill will punish anyone who creates, offers, circulates, prints or publish fake news or publication containing fake news with a 10-year jail term, a maximum MR 500,000 fine (US$ 128,000), or both.

Philippines Bulletin
Tax News
The Philippines National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights continues to escalate its crackdown on the sale of counterfeit goods. Over US$ 158 million in counterfeit and pirated goods were seized in 2017. However, the trend in products has shifted, previously, jewelry and branded watches were seized. In 2017, the top seized items were electronics, pharmaceuticals, optical media and personal care products.

Stock Exchange Task Force
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Myanmar (SECM) announced that it will form a special task for to help public companies list on the Yangon Stock Exchange (YSX). The task force will facilitate and expedite the 7-step process which takes two years to complete according the YSX regulations.


Delays at Employment Department
Due to the Employment Department’s official mandate to complete the work permits for migrant workers from Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar by March 31, 2018, delays in the work permit process are expected. For pre-work permit applications (PWPAs), new work permit applications, work permit renewals, and work permit cancellations lodged with the Employment Department from March 15-April 17 2018, expect an extra 4-5 business days added to the normal timeframe for each until mid-April 2018.

Digital Assets
Draft Royal Decrees Approved
The Cabinet approved in principle two draft Royal decrees on digital assets this month. One to regulate digital-asset related transactions and the other to amend the Revenue Code and allow the Revenue Department to impose levies on digital assets. The Finance Ministry says the new law will be used to comprehensively regulate cryptocurrencies and digital tokens to prevent money laundering, tax avoidance, and crime. The new law is not meant to prohibit digital asset transactions, but to protect investors. For tax purposes, digital assets will be classified as cryptocurrencies, digital tokens, or other electronics-data assets. Under the amendment to the Revenue Code, profits and dividends from digital currency investments and other income from digital assets will be assessed a 15% withholding tax rate, but that rate may change during the amendment process.

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