Singapore’s Chairmanship: Prospects for ASEAN in 2018

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Op/Ed by Dr. Robin Michael Garcia & Enkhzul Orgodol

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The Philippines had chaired the ASEAN four times since its inception with 2017 being its latest assumption, while Singapore had chaired three times before this year. The chairmanship of the ASEAN is based on a rotating basis with one year allocated for each chairman. With Singapore’s fourth time as ASEAN chairperson this year, what is in store for a regional grouping with big accomplishments but with even bigger aspirations?

At the onset, the fundamental question that must be asked however is: what of a chairpersonship position for a regional block that makes all decisions in consultation and consensually with one another, and that values non-interference above all? Hierarchical structures and legalistic punitive mechanisms similar to the European Union (EU) barely exist at least formally. In other words, what is the role of the ASEAN Chair aside from a glorified event organizer?

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Cambodia’s Investment Outlook for 2018

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By: Vasundhara Rastogi

Cambodia is among the fastest economies in the world, registering a stable economic growth rate of 6.9 percent to 7.6 percent every year, over the last 10 years. Though relatively less developed than its neighboring countries, Cambodia presents huge opportunities for foreign investors. Cambodia is known for its macroeconomic stability, low-cost labor, competitive investment incentives, and a pro-business government. Besides, it has the most favored nation (MFN) and generalized system of preference (GSP) status that gives it a preferential access to the world’s most lucrative markets such as Europe, North America, Korea and Japan. Cambodia has also signed numerous trade agreements, such as the US Cambodia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2006 and ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) starting from 2015, that facilitate and promote greater trade and investment between signatory countries.

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French FDI in ASEAN Part II: Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia

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By: Linh Tran Huy

Editor: Thibaut Minot

_French-FDI-in-ASEAN (002) Resized

In the first part of this two-part article, we discussed France’s investments in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. Reiterating the continued importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a FDI destination for European investors, we look at French FDI in Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia in this concluding part.

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Myanmar’s Investment Outlook for 2018

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By: Vasundhara Rastogi

Myanmar is among the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia with significant market potential for the growth and expansion of foreign companies. Some of the strategic advantages that the economy offers include its large youthful population and workforce, its low-cost base, natural resources, and its strategic location between two of the largest economies in the world – India, and China. The country, in 2017, recorded a growth rate of 6.3 percent. Albeit relatively slow, the economy remained strong and steady.

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French FDI in ASEAN Part I: Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam

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Editor: Thibaut Minot

The business environment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has become increasingly favorable for foreign investment in recent years. 2014 was an exceptional year in terms of FDI, which gave way to a slightly less impressive  2015 despite significant FDI flows of about EUR102 billion (US$126.7 billion). FDI flows remained strong in the areas of finance and infrastructure and strengthened in the manufacturing sector. France’s FDI was no exception: the French FDI stock in ASEAN reached EUR17.4 billion (US$21.6 billion) at the end of 2015, with a penchant for large markets (Malaysia, more than EUR 104.7 million) and those with development prospects (Vietnam, more than EUR 81 million).

This is due to the willingness of governments in ASEAN states to promote foreign investment and the increasingly visible economic developments in the region. The weakening of the Chinese and Brazilian markets, the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community in December 2015, and the streamlining of the regulatory landscape greatly improved the perception of investors. Be it SMEs or multinationals, they now want to expand their presence in the economic region through the creation of various investment routes, production networks and regional headquarters. Despite being rich in opportunities, ASEAN remains a difficult region to define. It is therefore crucial to understand the different advantages and disadvantages that each country offers and to choose accordingly.

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Cambodia’s DTAs with Singapore and Thailand Come into Effect

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By Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Vasundhara Rastogi

On January 1, 2018, Cambodia’s two Double Tax Agreements (DTAs) – with Singapore and Thailand – came into effect. The DTA with Singapore – Cambodia’s first income tax treaty – was signed on March 20, 2017, whereas the DTA with Thailand was signed on September 7, 2017.  The two DTAs aim to clarify taxation rights on all forms of income arising from cross-border economic activities between the signatory jurisdictions in respect of tax on profit, including withholding tax, additional profit tax on dividend distribution and capital gains tax; and tax on salary while minimizing double taxation. The agreements also provide for reduction or exemption of tax on certain types of income, lowering barriers to cross-border investment and encouraging bilateral trade.  

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IP Considerations in Singapore’s Healthcare and Medical Technologies Sector

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By: South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk

Underpinned by both rising disposable income and progressively aging population, Singapore offers various promising business opportunities to European SMEs engaged in the healthcare and medical technologies sectors, whose topnotch technology is increasingly sought after. Furthermore, Singapore’s healthcare expenditure is expected to grow about 10 percent by 2020 and the government is committed to offering better healthcare to its citizens as it has dedicated a budget of EUR 2.64 billion to developing the health and biomedical sciences sector in Singapore over the next five years.[1]

European SMEs who are engaged in developing medical diagnostics tools, especially in the areas of immunochemistry, point-of-care devices, and molecular diagnostics, or developing medical solutions catered towards functional ageing and fighting obesity-related and chronic diseases, can expect to find plenty of business opportunities in Singapore, as these areas are currently developing fastest in the country. Similarly, SMEs that are engaged in digital dentistry, can expect to find promising business opportunities, as there is a rising interest in digital dentistry in Singapore.[2] As Singapore aspires to become Asia’s digital healthcare hub, European SMEs can also use Singapore as a gateway to other South-East Asian countries, whose demand for healthcare technologies is similar to Singapore.

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Thailand Introduces New Four-Year Smart Visas for Investors

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By Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Vasundhara Rastogi

Foreign entrepreneurs investing in new businesses, and highly skilled professionals or executives can now apply for a new 4-year ‘Smart Visa’ to live and work in Thailand. The application for the smart visa will begin from February 1, 2018. However, individuals interested in applying must note that the visa application is only open to foreigners working or investing in the ten S-curve targeted industries. These industries include next-generation automotive, smart electronics, medical and wellness tourism, ‘food for the future’, agriculture and biotechnology, automation and robotics, aviation and logistics, biochemicals and eco-friendly petrochemicals, digital businesses, and medical hubs.

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Malaysia’s Digital Free Trade Zone

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By: Vasundhara Rastogi

Malaysia’s Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) went live in November 2017 as a joint undertaking between the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and China’s Alibaba Group. It seeks to establish Malaysia as a leading logistics center for global marketplaces by opening opportunities for companies both in Malaysia and other ASEAN countries to leverage a platform that enhances competitiveness and market access. Besides, it aims to develop an internet ecosystem in the country that drives innovation in e-commerce and digital economy.

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The Guide to Employment Permits for Foreign Workers in Singapore

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By Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Vasundhara Rastogi

ASB- Singapore Employment Permits (002)

For expatriate workers and their employers in Singapore, understanding the process to obtain a valid employment permit is vital. The Singapore government’s Ministry of Manpower (MoM) issues a wide range of work passes and permits to expatriates planning to work in Singapore. Each of these employment permits is designed for a specific purpose and differs across various categories of employees, based on their professional skills and monthly salaries.

Some of the most common employment permits issued by the government of Singapore are discussed below:

Employment Pass

The Employment Pass (EP) is issued to expatriates employed as foreign managers, executives, and skilled professionals in Singapore, for an initial period of 2 years; thereafter, the pass can be renewed for up to three years at a time. The EP is generally issued to individuals with a job offer that includes a minimum monthly salary of SG$3,600. More experienced candidates are required to be offered a higher salary to qualify for the same. However, according to a recent announcement made by the MoM, the monthly salary criteria for EP applicants will be raised to SG$6,000 with effect from January 1, 2018.

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