Philippine, European negotiators progress in trade agreement
The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Philippines will hold a fifth round of negotiations on a proposed free trade agreement early in 2016. The EFTA includes the four non-European Union (EU) Member States – Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – that operates in parallel to the EU.
The Philippines wants the inclusion of processed tropical fruits and durable fresh products in the agreement while EFTA nations are seeking to access the market for processed and fresh fish products for Norway and Iceland at zero tariff rates. During negotiations in November, the two sides also discussed the inclusion of services, technical barriers to trade, trade facilitation, intellectual property, public procurement, competition, trade and sustainable development. The EFTA remains important to the Philippines; in 2014, the total commodity trade reached US $636 million.
Government approves Bangkok rail project to boost economy
The Thai government approved a US $2.64 billion project to build a new elevated rail line in the capital Bangkok. The government has invested US $50 billion worth of infrastructure projects to boost the economy. The state rail authority also opened the electronic bidding for a project to construct a dual-track railway line in the northeastern part of the country. The project is estimated at US $650 million.
The authorities want to commence building 20 rail, road and air transport projects by 2018. The Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak was reported saying that more rail lines will be considered by the cabinet in March 2016. Bangkok already has three Skytrain lines operating in the city. The bidding for new Orange Line will be taking place in May and this line will be just over 13 miles (21km) long. The government hopes to speed up and use infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy.
Southeast Asia faces increased attacks by cyber criminals
According to a recent report by a leading security and telecommunication firm, businesses and governments in Southeast Asia are increasingly likely to become targets of cybercrime. In the first half of the year, 29 percent of organizations based in Southeast Asia were the targets of advanced cyber attacks. Out of these, Thailand and Philippines were the worst hit and susceptible to these attacks. The report mentioned that the organizations that faced the highest risk from cyber-crime were entertainment, media and hospitality sectors, followed by the government sector.
The report further stated that espionage is increasingly being done online, with Southeast Asia a hot spot. Geopolitics can also play a role as the region becomes economically competitive while tensions increase in the South China Sea; firms should be prepared for targeted attacks. In 2014, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand were ahead in adopting market solutions to combat the threat of cybercrime while Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam lagged behind.
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