Legal & Regulatory
By: Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Bradley Dunseith
Malaysia continues to be an attractive FDI destination in South East Asia, offering foreign investors a skilled workforce at competitive rates. However, in the regional context, as Chet Scheltema, Regional Director of Dezan Shira & Associates, notes, “historic sensitivity to abusive labor practices, and in some cases combined with the influence of litigious jurisprudence, has led to an environment where foreign investors are advised to tread cautiously and lay a solid foundation for human resources management, lest they run afoul of local labor laws or trigger costly labor disputes. One pillar of this firm foundation is typically a well-crafted employment contract.”
As such, Malaysia as well as some of its fellow members within ASEAN, including Indonesia and Vietnam, distinguish themselves by mandating a formal, written labor contract signed by the parties. When drafted with a strong understanding of Malaysia’s regulatory landscape and labor laws, these formal contracts can serve as an opportunity for foreign investors to establish a firm foundation for human resources management in the country.
By Bradley Dunseith
Officially the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), landlocked Laos borders China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. In 2015, Laos exported US$3.81 billion worth of goods and imported US$6.54 billion. Laos’ main export destinations include Thailand, China, Vietnam, India, and Japan. Laos’ top import sources include Thailand, China, Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan. In this article we explain best practices for importing into and exporting out of Laos.
The latest issue of ASEAN Briefing Magazine titled, “How to Set Up in the Philippines“, is out now and available to subscribers as a complimentary download in the Asia Briefing Publication Store.
In this issue of ASEAN Briefing
- Political, Economic, and Social Introduction to the Philippines
- Entering the Philippine Market: Comparing Models
- Corporate Establishment in the Philippines: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Using Singapore as a Gateway to the Philippines
By: South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk
Although the Philippines has slipped behind other ASEAN nations in automotive market size and though lacking in major domestic brands, the country’s massive exports of electronics and metal goods still make it a significant part of the international automotive supply chain. Currently, over 250 automotive companies operate in the Philippines, with foreign businesses largely represented by Japanese firms. Automotive exports created a net trade surplus of US$ 2.7 billion in 2010 and reached a total market size of US$ 3.5 billion in 2012. For automotive firms, these exports include many humble but critical components such as ignition wiring sets, intake air filters, clutch pedals, and radio receivers. Other exports are more immediately recognizable, including pneumatic tires, lead-acid storage batteries, and transmissions. Alongside these automotive staples are integrated circuits, the electronic brains which will form a critical part of the worldwide automotive industry’s adoption of self-driving cars. Many of these more sophisticated parts are produced not by automakers themselves but rather by smaller specialized contractors.
While the Philippine intellectual property regime stands head and shoulders above some of its other ASEAN counterparts, automakers or automobile component companies which source their products from the Philippines will still encounter challenges. Enforcement in the Philippines lags behind that of more developed markets, and there are always difficulties inherent in negotiating IP contracts with local partners. Nonetheless, with careful IP protection and a smart IP management strategy SMEs can reap the benefits of the Philippines’ comparative advantage in relative safety. To do so, a company must focus on three key elements: patents for key technology, especially in propulsion systems which will play a central role in international fuel efficiency design competition; semiconductor topography designs (integrated circuit layout-designs) for electronics which will give smart cars eyes and ears to manoeuvre safely and control their components; and copyrights for computer codes which will run on those electronics.
Philippines: Tax incentives announced for companies going green
The Philippines Board of Investment (BOI) has announced that it is planning to introduce tax incentives for companies going green. The initiative under the Climate Incentives for Manufacturing (CLIMA) program will target firms in the manufacturing sector. To qualify, enterprises should promote energy efficiency and use technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. While the exact nature of the incentives are not known, they are likely to be in the form of capital equipment incentives and income tax holidays.
By: South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk
Trade fairs are now a well-established part of the business calendar in Thailand, particularly in Bangkok, with a number of high-tech industries represented, as well as areas of the creative sector such as furniture and design. Trade fairs provide foreign businesses with the opportunity to present their innovations and ideas to potential business partners and customers, and allow them to learn from and collaborate with other innovators. There is, however, a risk, in that disclosing your innovations to the public leaves you exposed to copying and infringements of your IP.
Infringement of innovations may not necessarily be straightforward ‘counterfeiting’ – i.e. exact product, packaging and brand imitation. It is more likely that competitors could be using, intentionally or otherwise, a certain part of your product or innovation. It is therefore advisable to be as diligent as possible and to get to know competitors’ products well. In the light of this, a practical and realistic approach must be taken when preparing for and attending trade fairs in Thailand. IP owners must also be patient and pragmatic, as it is unlikely that immediate action can be taken against an infringer. There are, however, steps that IP owners can take before, during and after the event to best protect their IP.
MALAYSIA: Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan exempted from cabotage policy
With effect from June 1, 2017 the states of Sarawak and Sabah as well as the Federal Territory of Labuan will be exempted from the cabotage policy. As per the erstwhile policy, only Malaysia-flagged ships were permitted to transport cargo from Peninsular Malaysia to these three territories and vice versa. As a result foreign vessels carrying freight bound for the three territories had to stop at the port of Klang in Selangor state in Peninsular Malaysia in order to transfer the goods to domestic ships for onward shipment to Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan.
The Malaysian transport ministry has announced that the exemption will however not apply to freight transport between Labuan and the states of Sarawak and Sabah. While the domestic shipping industry has protested against the government’s move to end the cabotage policy, it has been welcomed by the local administrations. It is believed that the policy had led to higher prices of commodities and as a result a higher cost of living in the three territories. Observers have stated that now it will be possible to ship goods directly to Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan without having to transfer at a Peninsular Malaysian port.
Singapore: ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Systems Management Standard adopted
In order to enable Singapore-registered companies to implement and manage anti-bribery best practices, the city-state recently adopted the ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Systems Management Standard. The Standard is being launched jointly by SPRING Singapore, an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). The two organisations released a joint statement saying ISO 37001 “is based on internationally recognized good practices [and] provides guidelines to help Singapore companies strengthen their anti-bribery compliance systems and processes [to] ensure compliance with anti-bribery laws.”
An accreditation mechanism for certification bodies is expected to be rolled out by the end of 2017. The majority of people prosecuted for bribery and corruption in Singapore in 2016 were private sector employees. According to the CPIB, 808 corruption complaints were filed in 2016, down from 877 complaints filled in the previous year.
By Dezan Shira & Associates
Singapore’s parliament on March 10, 2017 passed significant amendments to its Companies Act and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP) Act. Among the key changes are measures aimed at making ownership and control of business entities more transparent in the city-state and reduce opportunities for the misuse of corporate entities for illicit purposes. The measures are also aimed at bringing Singapore in line with international good practices, and uphold the city-state’s sound reputation as a globally trusted financial hub. Among other significant changes introduced by the amended acts are (a) increased record keeping requirements and (b) introduction of an inward re-domiciliation regime allowing foreign corporate entities to transfer their corporate registration to Singapore.
Singapore – Ghana sign Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement
Singapore and Ghana have signed a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTA) on March 31, 2017. The agreement aims to reduce double taxation and tax disputes by clarifying the taxation rights on all types of income flows arising from cross-border business between the two countries. The DTA aims to reduce trade and investment barriers and increase trade flows between the two countries.
The agreement stipulates that withholding taxes on dividends, interest, and royalties will not exceed seven percent, while withholding taxes on services will be capped at 10 percent. All rates will come into effect on or after January 1, following the year when the DTA comes into force. The DTA will come into force after its ratifications by the two countries.