Latest ASEAN news

SET to launch “Live Exchange” market for SME fundraising

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) is opening a new market on September 14 called “Live Exchange” to serve as a fundraising platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
"Currently there are about 30 SMEs who have expressed interest in this market by joining SET’s training programme called “Scaling Up Platform”, which will help prepare them for the fundraising,” said Manpong Senanarong, SET senior executive vice president and head of issuer and listing division, on Thursday.
“We expect the fundraising in Live Exchange will actually start at the earliest before the year-end, or in early 2022 at the latest.”
Businesses who join the market before 2023 will be exempted from all the fees for three years, he added.
“Interested businesses will be allowed to submit their filings after the Securities and Exchange Commission has issued all related regulations of the market,” said Manpong.
“The consideration period of filings for the new market will be shorter compared to the SET and MAI [Market for Alternative Investment].”
Live Exchange will open only to SME operators who meet the asset requirements and not to retail investors. Trading will open one round per day and continuous trading is not allowed. Investors can only sell shares that they actually hold, while buyers of shares must use cash only.
Original published: September 10, 2021

BOT sees no need to tap IMF’s Special Drawing Rights facility

The Bank of Thailand (BOT) on Friday September 11, 2021 said it had no compulsion to utilise the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) as the countrys current foreign exchange reserves were adequate to meet its commitments.

SDRs are international reserve assets created by the IMF to supplement the official reserves of member countries. The value of an SDR is based on a basket of five -- the US dollar, the euro, the Chinese renminbi, the Japanese yen, and the British pound sterling. SDRs are allocated to IMF member countries in proportion to their relative share in the IMF. Countries can exchange SDRs for hard currencies with other IMF members.

The IMF on August 23 had allocated a historic budget of $650 billion for the SDR project with the aim of helping countries revive their economies that had been hit by Covid-19.

“If we use an SDR, we will need to pay interest to the IMF. This interest is based on the five currencies whose value could rise over time,” the BOT said.

“SDRs are suitable for countries that do not have enough foreign reserves to pay for foreign expenditure, such as trade debts, which is not the case with Thailand,” the BOT said.

Original published: September 11, 2021

Narrowing the Digital Divide in ASEAN: Infrastructure, Skills and Opportunities

The ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025 envisions ASEAN as a “leading digital community and economic bloc” – a bold plan that demands effective investments in infrastructure and skills.

he Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) organised the webinar, “Investing in Digital Infrastructure: Narrowing the Digital Divide in ASEAN”. Moderated by Mr Satyanarayan Ramamurthy, Partner and Head of Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare with KPMG Singapore, and SIIA Associate Council Member, the webinar featured Dr. Le Quang Lan, Assistant Director, Head of the ICT & Tourism Division, ASEAN Secretariat, and Mr. Andrew Williamson, Vice President and Economic Advisor of Government Affairs, Huawei.

Governments need to ensure equitable digital transformation

As the adoption of digitalisation increase, ASEAN governments have been pressured to develop digital infrastructure. Yet in the process, Dr Lan emphasised that millions of people, particularly the less digitally-enabled, may be excluded from affordable services and relevant content. Mr Williamson stated that businesses must adapt, they would either “go digital or go dark”. To prevent large-scale inequalities, governments have to encourage private sector investments in rural areas too.

“In a contactless world, the vast majority of interactions with customers and employees must take place virtually. With rare exception, operating digitally is the only way to stay in business through mandated shutdowns and restricted activity,” said Williamson.

Unfortunately, telecommunications infrastructure is too costly to establish in far-flung regions. Rural residents and small businesses also lack the readiness to create economic value after being connected. A holistic approach is essential for equitable and effective results. Local governments would need to incentivise the private sector to digitally onboard the entire nation, promote the innovation of cost-effective digital solutions, and also raise public digital literacy and awareness.

ASEAN as a source of guidance for comprehensive and rationale policies

ASEAN’s importance lies in knowledge-sharing and shaping legal frameworks. The regional bloc collates and disseminates best practices across the region. The Digital Masterplan 2025 is an example of the bloc is assisting less-digitalised economies on issues including, but not limited to strengthening rural connectivity, coordinating cross-border data flows, and adopting new (Industrial Revolution 4.0) technologies. Attention is particularly directed to scaling up Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs); ultimately providing affordable services to rural, urban and international consumers. Mr Williamson highlighted that the region has promising unicorns, so retaining digital talent would also be a priority.

A concern, however, is underlying geopolitical tensions. Both Dr Lan and Mr Williamson warned against the bifurcation of digital and IR 4.0 technologies. Sino-American tensions have deepened techno-nationalism, which only results in losses to all parties involved. Countries are cautioned against decisions based on political motivations. Dr Lan affirms that “ASEAN very much abides by the principle of technology neutrality…we [ASEAN] shall not prevent [the adoption] of one technology over another.” This principle will play a key role in developing a common standard that can maintain global value chains while sustaining regional business development.

Private sector innovation critical to realising the visions of a digital economy

Based on a historical example of the optimisation of internal combustion engines in the 19th century, Mr Williamson illustrated that the world is at the brink of revolutionising new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and machine-learning. This is an opportunity for ASEAN to lead, innovate and dramatically reduce digital infrastructure costs. Bigger players with rich resources like Huawei would need to be the first movers. Major companies can, and have already been, partnering with governments in producing training and upskilling programmes. Whether it be young students, small enterprises, women or mid-career switching talents, public-private collaborations would be beneficial in creating an attractive and diverse digital talent pool. The end goal is a robust and productive digital ecosystem that boosts the entire private sector, including MSMEs.

Involving all stakeholders is key to an inclusive digital community

ASEAN is a diverse region; each country’s digital strategy has a different level of maturity. It is crucial that the initiatives take advantage of the stakeholder’s capabilities, while also accounting for their needs. With an internet economy set to reach US$300 billion in 2025, more opportunities would arise. As a member of ASEAN and a key hub in the region, Singapore’s interests are tied to this ongoing transformation.

Original published: Septmber 15, 2021

Export industry making most of FTA, GSP pacts, says trade dept

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has not affected Thailand’s free trade agreements (FTAs) or the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), the Department of Foreign Trade (DFT) said on Thursday September 16, 2021.

In the first seven months of this year, deals under the pacts had risen by 36.23 per cent compared to the same period last year, while the industries using the privileges most were agriculture and food, DFT said.

Keerati Rushchano, DFT director-general, said the total value of deals made by Thai exporters under the FTA and GSP pacts between January and July this year stood at US$46.4 billion, up 36.23 per cent from the same period last year.

Between January and July, Thailand has increased its use of trade incentives under various FTA and GSP frameworks in a bid to boost exports. Besides, several markets have started recovering in the wake of the Covid-19 fallout. For instance, export to India has risen by 4.91 per cent, while Thailand’s shipments to Asean and Japan has expanded by 3.89 per cent.

Products benefiting the most from these pacts are industrial goods, food and beverage, as well as agricultural products such as processed coconut, seasonings, water/non-alcoholic beverages, processed food, canned pineapples, fish, rice and aromatics used in the food industry.

Original published: September 17, 2021

Thailand hikes public debt-GDP ceiling to 70% to fund recovery

The State Fiscal Policy Committee on Monday approved raising Thailand’s public debt ceiling from 60 per cent to 70 per cent of GDP.

The new limit would be proposed at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting for approval, said Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.

The committee, which is chaired by Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, said it approved the hike in case the government needs to borrow more money in the medium term.

A Finance Ministry source said raising the debt ceiling would aid the government in setting its budget deficit for fiscal year 2022, which starts next month.

The government has so far borrowed 1.5 trillion baht to fund Covid-19 relief and stimulus programmes, 500 billion baht of which was approved this year. However, Bank of Thailand Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput recently urged the government to borrow another 1 trillion baht to aid recovery from the pandemic.

The committee said Thailand’s fiscal position remains healthy with good debt-repayment capability.

Original published: September 20, 2021

Energy policy panel approves initial 20-year national power plan

The Energy Policy Administration Committee chaired by Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow on Monday approved the first revision of the National Power Development Plan of 2018-2037, a source said.

This version reportedly includes the objective of securing national energy stability by producing clean energy, reducing carbon emission and helping Thailand become a decarbonised society. The objective will be implemented between 2021 and 2030.

The committee has also tasked the Energy Policy and Planning Office (EPPO) and Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency (DEDE) to revise the annual production capacity of power plants fueled by coal and natural gas, boost their capacity through the use of renewable energy (biomass, biogas, solar, wind, community and industrial wastes), as well as consider buying electricity generated by hydro-power plants from neighboring countries.

The committee also agreed to extend the price guarantee for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) at Bt318 per 15-kilogram canister for three months until December 31. The move aims to ease people’s financial burden in the fallout of Covid-19 even though the global price of LPG is trending upwards. The Energy Ministry has been tasked with monitoring the price of LPG closely and proposing a price revision to the committee when necessary.

Original published: September 21, 2021

Thailand reevaluates CPTPP pact after China membership expands market size

The Department of Trade Negotiations (DTN) said on Monday that Thailand is reevaluating the pros and cons of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) free trade agreement after China signed the pact last week.

Auramon Supthaweethum, the department's director-general, said the market size of CPTPP is now bigger than it was when it only had 11 signatories, namely Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

“With China, the CPTPP population has expanded to over 1.9 billion people or 25 per cent of the global population with a total gross domestic product [GDP] of approximately US$25.3 trillion or 30 per cent of the global GDP,” she said.

However, she added that CPTPP was smaller than the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which comprises 15 members, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

The RCEP is the world's largest free trade agreement covering over 2.3 billion people or 30 per cent of the global population with a total GDP of $28.5 trillion or 33.6 per cent of the global GDP.

"China's move to join the CPTPP agreement will help expand trade and investment opportunities among member countries, especially participation in the regional supply chain, as China is an important material resource and production base in the region," she said.

"Meanwhile, it proved that China is ready to improve standards and regulations to match those of member countries, such as intellectual property protection, labour rights, e-commerce and state enterprises' operations."

Thailand has free trade agreements with nine CPTPP members, namely Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Peru.

Auramon added that Thailand was getting ready to negotiate a free-trade agreement between Asean countries and Canada soon.

"The expansion of CPTPP had caused Thailand to reevaluate agreement's benefits and impacts, such as tariff reduction or suspension, product origin and trade facilitation rules," she said.

The Commerce Ministry will also reevaluate the agreement before it proposes changes to the Cabinet, she said.

Since, CPTPP is an issue that is closely followed by many sectors, the International Economic Policy Committee, which is made of senior representatives of the economic sector, is required to participate in the reevaluation as well.

Original published: September 21, 2021 

ASEAN-Hong Kong FTA expands to boost economic recovery post-Covid

Hong Kong and Asean have agreed to expand bilateral trade under their free-trade and investment agreements, the Thai Commerce Ministry revealed on Tuesday September 21, 2021.

The two agreements are crucial to the region’s economic recovery after the pandemic, said Commerce Vice Minister Sansern Samalapa, who headed the Thai delegation at last week’s 5th Asean-Hong Kong Economic Ministers' Meeting.

All sides agreed to add five more branches of economic and academic cooperation to the Asean-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Area (AHKFTA) Agreement and the Asean-Hong Kong Investment Agreement (AHKIA).

The five branches are sanitary and phytosanitary measures; standards, technical regulations and conformance assessment processes; intellectual property; digital technology for trade facilitation; and investment promotion.

The meeting also agreed to accelerate talks on the next negotiating plan, which covers product-specific rules under the AHKFTA, and investment clauses.

Hong Kong has already exempted import duties on all Asean products under the two agreements, which came into effect in February. It has also opened up its content production services to Thai radio and television operators.

Meanwhile, the territory has pledged 5 million Hong Kong dollars (21.4 million baht) to develop potential of Asean member countries.

Hong Kong is Thailand's 8th largest trading partner. Trade between the two territories in the first seven months this year (January-July), totalled $8.418 billion (281 billion baht), up 10.35 per cent from the same period in 2020.

Original published: September 21, 2021

Thailand seeks FTA with Eurasian Union

Thailand will seek a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Russia and four of its neighbours during a meeting with the Eurasian Economic Commission later this month.

Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit will chair the second round of trade talks with the commission by video link on Monday (September 27).

The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) covers Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan – an economy of more than 180 million people and a GDP of over US$1.9 trillion.

It also boasts rich natural energy sources of oil, gas, coal and other minerals.

The EAEU already has an FTA with two Asean member countries, Vietnam and Singapore.

Trade between Thailand and the EAEU in the first seven months of 2012 (January-July) totalled $1,831.31 million, up 25 per cent from the same period last year.

Original published: September 23, 2021

ASEAN and South Korea to deepen trade ties

ASEAN countries and South Korea agreed to improve their free trade agreement during the recent 18th Asean-Korea Economic Ministers Consultation held virtually from September 13 to 15, Vice Commerce Minister Sansern Samalapa said on Sunday.

"The meeting agreed to expand the existing Asean Korea Free Trade Agreement (AKFTA) to provide tax exemption for additional products and promote trading between Asean members and South Korea,” he said.

“The ministers also urged the countries to exchange know-how in Covid-19 management to speed up their economic recovery after the outbreak situation has improved.

“South Korea is especially eager to cooperate with Asean nations in various aspects, such as establishing an industrial innovation centre to promote innovation development and commercial adaptation of innovations in Southeast Asia and South Korea,” added Sansern.

“They are also interested in opening more research and development centres dedicated to startup businesses in the region.”

The meeting also urged Vietnam, the only country in Asean yet to sign the Asean-Korea Trade in Goods Agreement (AKTIGA), to do so as soon as they can so that the agreement can start taking full effect. The AKTIGA is expected to help Asean-Korean entrepreneurs speed up export and import processes by issuing and signing a product’s certificate of origin digitally.

Statistics from the Commerce Ministry indicate that South Korea is currently Thailand’s ninth biggest trade partner with total trade value at $9.1 billion in the first seven months of 2021, increasing 34.5 per cent from the same period of the previous year. Thailand’s exports to South Korea were valued at $3.39 billion, comprising rubber products, wood, computer components, chemicals and aluminium products. Thailand’s imports from South Korea were recorded at $5.71 billion, made up of iron, steel, and electronic circuits.

BAAC sparks up cannabis farming loan scheme

The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) has started offering loans this month to plant cannabis for community enterprises and agricultural cooperatives after parts of the plant were taken off the narcotics list.

The bank's senior executive vice-president Somkiat Kimawaha said the move supports farmers who want to plant cannabis as an alternative to rice, cassava or rubber trees.

However, Mr Somkiat said successful plantation of cannabis for medical or industrial use requires large investment, extensive care and vast knowledge, even more so than growing durian.

Mr Somkiat warned that the cannabis is not for any farmer.

"You need to be highly motivated to plant cannabis because it demands close and attentive care," he said.

The bank's loan for cannabis farming charges an interest rate of 0.01% per year for the first three years.

BAAC expects to grant the loans on a prudential basis, said Mr Somkiat.

After parts of the cannabis plant were taken off the country's narcotics list, the commercial prospects of cannabis-related products became promising.

Many business operators have launched plans to cash in on the government's move to partially legalise the once-taboo plant.

Cannabis is still listed as a category 5 narcotic under the Narcotic Drugs Act, but the Public Health Ministry recently issued a regulation to remove the plant's leaves, stalks, stems and roots from the list.

The permitted parts and content must come from authorised producers such as government organisations with medical and research goals, modern and traditional medical practitioners, universities, community-based enterprises and community cooperatives.

Eligible borrowers for the cannabis loan must be community enterprises, social enterprises or agricultural cooperatives, not individual borrowers.

They must have a memorandum of understanding from a school, state agency or processing plants that agreed to purchase their cannabis.

This rule prevents a market glut and prohibits farmers from selling the cannabis to outsiders who might illegally use the plants.

In addition, eligible borrowers have to secure a permit from the Food and Drug Administration to plant cannabis.

All sales transactions for the cannabis must be conducted via an electronic channel so they can be easily checked.

Farmers are required to plant the cannabis in a closed greenery, using a closed-circuit TV system and employing security personnel to allow authorities to trace all activities inside the greenhouses.

Borrowers must be trained by related state agencies or universities on cannabis plantation. They are required to submit business plans and risk control plans.

Borrowers must download BAAC's QR code app and record their production activities on it, enabling the bank to follow their progress and analyse further loans to their clients.

Mr Somkiat said BAAC has granted cannabis loans totalling 5.1 million baht to three community enterprises, one each in Prachin Buri, Nakhon Ratchasima and Khon Kaen.

BAAC estimates 157 community enterprises out of a total of 10,000 nationwide have the potential to do cannabis farming. However, each enterprise has to decide for itself whether it wants to make the investment decision, he said.

Mr Somkiat said cannabis plantation is expected to add 25-35% more revenue to farmers' existing tally from traditional crops.

Source: Bangkok Post
Original published: September 25, 2021

Mitsubishi invests in Laos wind farm project, biggest in SE Asia

Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp has invested in a massive wind power plant project in Laos to deliver electricity to Vietnam, in what would be the biggest onshore wind farm in Southeast Asia.

Mitsubishi said in a recent press release that the 600-megawatt wind power plant in Sekong and Attapeu provinces in southern Laos, a first for the country, will be developed by Hong Kong-based Impact Energy Asia Development Ltd, or IEAD, from next year, with operations planned to start in 2025.

The onshore wind farm project, also described as the "first cross-border electricity interchange from wind power generation" in the region, is aimed at fighting climate change while supporting economic activity.

Vietnam requires additional power supply to maintain its growing economy, especially during the dry season when the wind power plant is expected to operate at a high rate and the availability of hydropower generation, one of the nation's main power sources, is limited, according to Mitsubishi.

Although it has not disclosed the size of the investment, the Tokyo-based conglomerate said its subsidiary based in Hong Kong holds a stake of about 24% in the project, with the remainder held by BCPG Public Company Ltd. and Earth Power Investment Ltd, both of which are subsidiaries of Thai firms.

"We will continue to contribute to the realization of a decarbonized society by both striving to achieve a stable supply of electricity in Vietnam and addressing the environmental challenges for a stable society," Mitsubishi said.

The move was followed by an announcement in July by BCPG that IEAD and Vietnam Electricity, a leading power company in the nation, have officially agreed on electricity purchase for 25 years.

IEAD Chairwoman Paradai Suebma was quoted in the BCPG news release as saying that the signing of the agreement "marks a symbolic collaboration" between Laos, Vietnam, Japan, and Thailand "to work towards the global quest of net zero-emissions".

The project is in line with a memorandum of understanding on power interchange signed between the Vietnamese and Lao governments in October 2016, in which Vietnam will import 5,000 MW of electricity in total from Laos by 2030, according to Mitsubishi.

The Japanese company has set goals of achieving carbon neutrality in its utility business by 2050 and of doubling the amount of power from renewable energy sources by fiscal 2030, which ends in March 2031, compared with levels in fiscal 2019.

Source: Bangkok Post
Original published: September 26, 2021