Mar. 18 – The first issue of Asia Briefing Magazine, titled Are You Ready For ASEAN 2015?, is out now and available as a PDF download on the Asia Briefing Bookstore. Although both China and India have recently signed free trade agreements with ASEAN, many businesses still seem blissfully unaware of the free trade agreements and economic partnerships that are dramatically changing Asia’s business opportunities. These are agreements that do away with customs duties and tariffs on thousands of products. In this first issue of the bi-monthly Asia Briefing magazine, we focus on the new dawn that ASEAN free trade brings to the entire region, as well as the dramatic added impact of pan-Asian free trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
ASEAN – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – comprises 10 Asian countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) as an economic trade bloc. That means reduced or zero customs duties across a space that includes the 10 ASEAN nations, and includes additional agreements, still under negotiation, that are expected to link in China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea with the same ASEAN bloc.
By Alex Tangkilisan
Feb. 20 – In the second part of our ASEAN-India Free Trade Area analysis, we will examine trade trends and statistics from India to Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar.
Indonesia and Vietnam make up two of the major six economies in ASEAN, while Myanmar is one of the four smallest economies in the region (alongside Cambodia, Brunei and Laos). Together, these three countries combine for a total GDP of US$1.07 trillion, a population of 378.5 million, and exports to India amounting to US$13.37 billion (or, about 2.7 percent of India’s total imports).
In conjunction with ASEAN’s continued emergence as a regional economic powerhouse, these figures, although still somewhat small, are poised to grow thanks to the free trade agreements (FTAs) signed between India and ASEAN.
Plus Myanmar issues new foreign investment law
Nov. 9 – China is set to commence negotiations to create a 16-nation trade bloc, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), with its launch expected to be formally announced at the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh later this month. The RCEP will include the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, and will have the effect of lowering trade barriers and custom duties across the region by the end of 2015. ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. A map of the participating members of the proposed RCEP can be seen below.
By Daniel Fleishman
Nov. 9 – U.S. President Barack Obama, who won a second term in office this past Tuesday, will be taking a trip to Myanmar later this month as part of a broad tour of Southeast Asia. He will make history as the first American president to visit Myanmar and the second high-level U.S. official, after Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, to visit since the country’s recent transition from decades of military rule to a quasi-civilian government under President Thein Sein.
Obama’s visit is seen as a significant step in the already-improving relations between the United States and the impoverished Myanmar, whose economy has been suffering from an ineffective command economy, institutional corruption, and heavy international economic sanctions.
Jul. 19 – Asia Briefing, in cooperation with its parent firm Dezan Shira & Associates, has just released a new 28-page report introducing the current business environment in Myanmar. This guide, titled “An Introduction to Doing Business in Myanmar,” is immediately available as a complimentary PDF download on the Asia Briefing Bookstore.
Myanmar is finally opening its doors to the rest of the world with the military-led government only a few months ago pushing forward political and economic reforms, attracting the attention of potential investors worldwide.
What will happen in the future is unclear, but the current president, Thein Sein (who could step down in 2015), is an advocate of opening and reforming the economy, so it seems there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel.
By Ian Bhullar
Jul. 3 – The announcement of negotiations on a Vietnam-European Union (EU) free trade agreement (FTA) this week is promising for business leaders with interests on the intersection of Europe and the whole of the Southeast Asian region.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Vietnamese Minister for Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang launched negotiations covering tariffs, non-tariff barriers, procurement, regulatory issues, competition, and sustainable development on June 27.
By Joshua Gill
Jun. 25 – Following U.S. President Barack Obama’s May 17 announcement that the United States would ease its sanctions against Myanmar, some American firms have begun to make efforts to expand into this newly available market. In his speech, President Obama declared that the suspension of the bans on the exportation of financial services and new investment in Myanmar would “facilitate broad-based economic development” and bring Myanmar “out of isolation and into the international community.”
On June 14, Coca-Cola announced that it planned to end its more than 60 year suspension of business with Myanmar and re-enter the market. The resumption of business includes a US$3 million grant to a women’s empowerment group as well as plans to begin importing Coca-Cola products from neighboring countries. Its long-term plans include partnering with local businesses to establish itself as a market leader in Myanmar.
Infrastructure includes road linking India to Thailand
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Myanmar President Thein Sein
May 29 – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in Myanmar meeting with President Thein Sein this week, has agreed on a number of key investment and development projects with the country. It has been the first visit to Myanmar by an Indian PM in 25 years.
Among the various agreements signed has been an air services project, which will provide 18 Indian cities with flights to Myanmar and also allow them to combine these with onward flights to other Asian destinations. Indian companies will also explore oil in some of Myanmar’s blocs, while border trade zones will be set up at Arunachal Pradesh at the Pangsau Pass.
Mar. 28 – The Myanmar government is introducing a new set of regulations expected to promote foreign direct investment into the country. Coupled with the lifting of U.S. sanctions on the existing regime, this move may well spell the beginning of a new chapter in the nation’s development. Long a pariah state and run until recently as an oppressive military dictatorship, a shift in domestic policy appears to be opening up the country to reform.
New regulations are set to be introduced as early as next month, taking the shape of tax holidays, simplifying foreign exchange, liberalizing the banking sector and reforming the areas of investment available for foreign participation.