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ASEAN-India Free Trade Area Part II: Indonesia, Vietnam & Myanmar

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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.

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China to Join RCEP, Creating Massive Free Trade Area with ASEAN, India, and Japan

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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.

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Obama to Visit Myanmar, New Foreign Investment Law Released

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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.

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Asia Briefing Report: An Introduction to Doing Business in Myanmar

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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.

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European Union Free Trade Negotiations with Southeast Asia

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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.

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Myanmar Attracts International Investment

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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.

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India-Myanmar Sign Key Trade and Development Deals

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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.

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Myanmar Set to Open Up to Foreign Investment

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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.

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