ASEAN Today – Regional Legal and Business News – November 2017

ASEAN Today – Regional Legal and Business News for November 2017

 

ASEAN Economic Community News

ASEAN Investment Report 2017
The ASEAN Secretariat and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released the “ASEAN Investment Report 2017: Foreign Direct Investment and Economic Zones in ASEAN” at the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila this month. The report states that even with the drop in global foreign direct investment (FDI) into developing economies, FDI flows into ASEAN in 2016 remained high. However, inflows into ASEAN did decline to US$97 billion in 2016 due to divestment,. This was due to ASEAN companies acquiring foreign assets in their home countries, and repayment of intracompany loans. Intra-ASEAN investment made up 25% of the total FDI inflows, an all-time high.

ASEAN Fintech Network
The ASEAN Fintech Network (AFN) launched this month and will be a platform to promote cross-border collaboration amongst members and help boost the region’s position as a Fintech hub. The AFN’s founding members are non-profit Fintech industry organizations from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Fintech is an innovativeon and new technology, and is used to deliver financial services as an alternative to traditional financial methods. ASEAN has great potential for Fintech companies as it has a rapidly growing online population together with low banking penetration.

Vietnam News
Tourism Infrastructure
Vietnam plans to invest US$1.3 billion into its tourist infrastructure over the next two years. The funds will be used to construct and upgrade roads to tourist areas and build waste treatment systems at tourist attractions. Vietnam expects 13 million visitors in 2017, up from 10 million in 2016.

Indonesia Watch
Madrid Protocol
The Indonesian government deposited its Instruments of Accession for the Madrid Protocol with the World Intellectual Property Organization and is now the 100th member of the Madrid System and the 8th ASEAN member. Malaysia and Myanmar have not yet joined the system. The Madrid Protocol is an international treaty that allows marks to be registered and protected in multiple Madrid Protocol member countries through the filing of only one application.

Philippines Bulletin
Labor Reciprocity
Recently passed laws governing pharmacy and forestry professions in the Philippines contain a reciprocity clause that will allow foreigners to practice these professions in the Philippines. However, reciprocal countries must give the same opportunities for employment to Filipinos and professional requirements must be substantially the same. Both professions have been taken off the Philippines’ foreign investment negative list.

Cambodia News
WTO Review
Cambodia has made substantial economic gains since being accepted into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2004. However, the WTO believes that Cambodia is not making enough reforms and improvements including finding was to upgradinge its export procedures, strengthening the rule of law, and promoting transparency.

Singapore Update
Mediation
Singapore’s new Mediation Act and Mediation Rules came into force on November 1, 2017. The Act includes international commercial mediation and strengthens the framework for the enforcement of mediated settlements conducted in Singapore.

THAILAND UPDATE

Banking
Reverse Mortgage
Thailand’s Government Savings Bank launched the country’s first reverse mortgage product this month to help retirees cover living expenses and health care costs. Thai nationals aged between 60-80 years old who own a property out of debt are eligible for the reverse mortgage. The loan amount cannot exceed 70% of the appraisal value of a house or 60% of a condo.

Market Conduct Regulation
A new Bank of Thailand (BOT) regulation on market conduct will become effective on January 1, 2017. The BOT says the regulation focuses on improving competition amongst financial institutions to ensure appropriate and fair services and fees and provide information to protect customer rights. It will also allow the BOT to better enforce its power when financial institutions violate the law.

E-Commerce
Online Applications
Following the creation of the Digital Government Agency (DGA) that will oversee data across state agencies, the government is aimings at to reduceing by 85% its paper- based data by 85%. Plans have been announced that within the next four years Thais will be able to fill in a single online application form to be used for 300 government agencies.

Durian Platform
The Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) that operates under the Ministry of Information and Communication plans to launch a new digital marketing platform nicknamed “Durian.”. The new platform to be launched next June is intended to encourage local e-commerce ecosystems and help local e-commerce compete with global platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. EDTA noted that the plan not only includes online products and merchants, sales, and payment systems, but also digital content business and marketing channels.

Intellectual Property
Geographical Indications
The Commerce Ministry’s Intellectual Property Department is conducting a drive to have more Thai products registered with geographical indications (GI). The GI which denotes a particular country, region or locality is considered to add value to the product due to its special place of origin and local characteristics. To date over 80 products from 74 of Thailand’s 77 provinces have achieved GI registration.

Special Economic Zones
BOI Extends Corridor Privileges
The Board of Investment (BOI) has announced a two-year extension of investment privileges in zones of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). As a result, corporate income tax exemption will be extended from eight years to 10 years and there will be an additional 50% cut on corporate income tax for an additional five years after the tax holiday. In addition, investment projects found in special economic zones (SEZs) in 10 border provinces will also be allowed to enjoy eight years of corporate tax waivers and up to 50% tax reduction in the following five years.

Government to Conduct EEC Training
In view of the need for skilled labor, the government has earmarked an 861 million baht budget to train vocational students to work in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). The goal is to supply 40,000 new workers for 10 targeted industries: next-generation cars, smart electronics, medical and wellness tourism, agriculture and biotechnology, food, robotics, logistics and aviation, biofuels and chemicals, digital and medical services.

Communications
SIM Card Biometric Verification
This month the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has announced that starting on December 15, 2017 all SIM card buyers will be required to register using a biometric verification system. Each new SIM card user will be required to insert an ID card into the facial scanner recognition system or use a fingerprint reader at the registration location.

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