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President's Newsletter

September 2019 

Dear Members,

September is off to a bustling start.  The Council has just led its 9th mission to the ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meetings (AMEM) and 20th mission to the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meetings (AEM). 

This year’s mission to the AEM was especially mindful of the fact that ASEAN is not immune to a global downturn and the effects of an ongoing trade war.  In fact, within the span of a few days last month, we saw a wave of movement in fiscal stimulus in the region’s largest economies.  On August 16, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a record-high government spending plan in the 2020 budget for ASEAN’s largest economy.  Following the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s more modest economic forecasts announced on August 13, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on August 19 that economic slowdown did not yet warrant stimulus measures, but that the Republic was ready to respond amid a worsening situation.  Thailand Minister of Finance Uttama Savanayana announced on August 20 a US$10.23 billion government spending package for 2020 to boost ASEAN’s second largest economy.  As a region, ASEAN’s engines of growth are more diverse and resilient than many other parts of the world, but these movements may signal new concern for economic slowdown.

The Council, taking this into account, presented its ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) White Paper, Harnessing Momentum Towards Greater ASEAN Economic Integration: Recommendations in a Time of Change, to the AEM in Bangkok on September 9 to re-emphasize U.S. private sector support for ASEAN and the AEC.  The paper provides recommendations for building the AEC and supports concepts of the Indo-Pacific – both the vision set out by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

The Council continues to work with the U.S. government to support ASEAN on the road ahead.  During the mission to AEM, Council delegates joined U.S. Trade Representatives, including Ambassador Jeffrey Gerrish, Deputy USTR for Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Industrial Competitiveness, for an AEM-USTR Joint Consultation.  This was an opportunity for the Council to present its views on the importance of redoubling efforts in ASEAN economic integration to prepare for uncertainties in the global environment.

The AEM welcomed updates from the Council during the official AEM-USTR Consultation.  The AEM-USTR Consultation Joint Media Statement highlights progress with the U.S.-ASEAN Internship Program and anticipates the Council’s signature ASEAN Economic Ministers-Telecommunication Ministers (AEM-TELMIN) Roadshow on Digital Economy which will take place in the United States in November.  The Ministers “expressed appreciation to the USABC for its support and encouraged continued private sector feedback in promoting stronger business and trade ties between the U.S. and ASEAN business communities,” according to the official joint statement.  See the press release for the Council’s mission to the AEM.

ASEAN’s current economic trajectory is set to make it the world’s fifth largest economy by 2050.  No growth, however, can happen without energy.  For ASEAN, energy security will be another major challenge area in coming years.  At AMEM earlier this month in Bangkok, the Council underscored the importance of prioritizing and working toward energy security.  In the coming decades, ASEAN is set to be the equivalent of adding another Japan to global energy demand while it is also poised to be a net energy importer.  The mission, taking this into account, focused on ways of diversifying energy mixes and enhancing connectivity in the region to promote regional energy security.  The Council was pleased to meet with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Frank Fannon during the mission, as a continued synergy with the U.S. Government in supporting ASEAN to meet its energy goals.  Assistant Secretary Fannon was a former member of the Council when he was with Murphy Oil.

As the “digital economy” replaces the “economy,” data governance is perhaps just as critical as energy management.  To support ASEAN governments in ensuring the right protections are in place to protect the data of their citizens and industries, the Council launched a report emphasizing the importance of interoperability of data governance standards in ASEAN.  The report, Digital Data Governance in ASEAN: Key Elements for a Data-Driven Economy, outlines recommendations for how ASEAN can balance its regulations and reach its full potential – with the right digital ecosystem, ASEAN's digital economy is set to exceed US$240 billion by 2025.  The paper was launched at the Council’s third ASEAN-U.S. Digital Policy Consultative Forum (DPCF) of 2019, held alongside the 2nd ASEAN Telecommunications and Information Technology Senior Officials and ASEAN Telecommunications Regulators’ Council (TELSOM-ATRC) Leaders’ Retreat in Bangkok.  See the press release.

Our white papers on data governance and ASEAN economic integration are part of our continued expansion of advocacy tools, which reinforce and complement our signature programming. Last month, we were proud to hold our largest single business mission to any ASEAN nation.  A total of 46 members joined our annual Thailand Business Mission, which included a meeting with H.E. Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand.  See the press release for more information.  We also led our Malaysia Business Mission and engaged in discussions on the government’s priority areas and 2020 chairmanship of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).  See the press release for more information on this mission.

The Council will continue to roll forward into the start of Fall with major engagements this month.  During the UN General Assembly in New York, we will host events for H.E. Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand, who we had the honor of meeting just last month during our Thailand Business Mission, and H.E. Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia.  We will also lead our Philippines Business Mission next week in Manila from September 16-18 and our Myanmar Business Mission from September 30-October 3.

- Alex
September Highlights
Delegates to the Council’s Thailand Business Mission meet with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha.  From August 13-16, 46 members joined the mission, making it the Council’s largest mission to any single ASEAN country.  Nearly 100 senior executives from a variety of industries met with the recently re-elected Prime Minister, as well as newly appointed Cabinet members, senior Government officials, and key stakeholders in Thailand.
From August 20-22, the Council led a delegation of 20 leading U.S. global companies to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The mission is part of the Council’s continued effort to position member companies as partners and stakeholders committed to Malaysia’s dynamic and inclusive growth.  The delegation met with top Malaysian government officials to understand ways in which the U.S. business community can support the government’s top goals and key initiatives, including the Industry4WRD national policy.  The mission also discussed Malaysia’s objectives and potential theme for its 2020 Chairmanship of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).  From left to right: Dato Rohana Mahmood, head of the Malaysia APEC Business Advisory Council, Tan Sri Dr. Rebecca Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat in Singapore and Alexander Feldman, US-ABC President & CEO. 
From left to right:  U.S. Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy and USABC President and CEO Alexander Feldman.  The Council had the opportunity to say “Thank you and good luck” to Ambassador Murphy before he heads to post in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Ambassador Murphy previously served as the Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and is a career member of the Foreign Service, having served as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in Bangkok, Special Representative & Policy Coordinator for Burma and other positions.
Country, Industry and Advocacy Updates

Key Developments

  • ASEAN Regulators Agree Upon Regional OTT Guidelines:  Following the completion of the 2nd TELSOM-ATRC Retreat in Bangkok, Thailand from August 19-22, ASEAN ICT regulators have agreed in principle on a set of guidelines for regulatory approaches to over-the-top (OTT) services, specifically taxation and revenue collection approaches.  OTT services are applications or services that operate on top of traditional internet networks, including popular services like Facebook, Netflix and YouTube.  See more.
  • Thai Government Develops Massive Stimulus Package to Boost Economic Growth:  On August 21, the Cabinet approved a 316 billion THB (US$10.2 billion) stimulus package, which is expected to boost economic growth to above 3 percent (at least 0.55 percentage points) and generate more than 100 billion THB in cash flows.  See more
  • ASEAN Maintains Positive Outlook for ASEAN Single Window Adoption (ASW) and RCEP:  At the 3rd ASEAN Media Forum on July 30, ASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi expressed optimism that by the end of 2019, all ASEAN countries will be connected through the ASW.  He emphasized the need for ASEAN states to view themselves as partners rather than competitors and said there has been much collaboration with businesses and other stakeholders to ensure ASW will soon be finalized.  See more.
  • Indonesia’s Trade Surplus More Modest:  According WorldCity’s U.S. trade numbers for the first half of 2019, the U.S. trade deficit with Indonesia is on pace to decline from US$13.3 billion in 2018 to US$11.8 billion in 2019.  In 2018, total U.S.-Indonesia trade was US$27.08 billion, with U.S. exports of US$6.87 billion.  U.S. imports from Indonesia were US$20.21 billion in 2018.  The first half of 2019 saw total U.S.-Indonesia trade at US$14 billion, with U.S. exports of roughly US$4.1 billion and U.S. imports from Indonesia at US$10 billion.
  • Vietnam and Malaysia Seeking Investment and Government Tenders for Major ICT Projects:  In Vietnam, the Trung Nam Group is seeking investors for the Da Nang Information Technology Park, slated to be Vietnam’s own “Silicon Valley.”  Malaysia’s Electoral Commission (EC) will soon release a tender for the upgrade of its electoral computer system to accommodate both the country’s new voting age, lowered from 21 to 18 years of age, and recent adoption of automatic voter registration.  See more.  
  • Marijuana Legalization Makes Strides Across ASEAN:  Marijuana legalization is becoming a popular policy topic across ASEAN, with countries such as Thailand and the Philippines bringing marijuana to the forefront of political attention.  Thailand is the first nation in ASEAN to legalize medical marijuana, while opponents of the war on drugs in the Philippines and Malaysia have encouraged openness to medical marijuana legalization.  See more.
  • Singapore Elections moving ahead:  On September 4, Singapore’s Elections Department announced that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) has been convened and been directed to review the current electoral boundaries and recommend the number and boundaries of Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and Single-Member Constituencies (SMCs).  The next general election must be held by April 2021.  The formation of the EBRC and the submission of its subsequent report are key processes that need to be completed before a general election.
Current Advocacy
  • Call for Input on Indonesia Cybersecurity and Resilience Bill: Following our Group Discussion on Indonesia Cybersecurity Bill on September 4, the Council learned that the Government of Indonesia has submitted the President Letter on Cybersecurity and Resilience Bill to the House of Representatives (DPR). Therefore, DPR has advised that any input on the Bill can be sent directly to Baleg (Legislative Body) as it would be discussed before the end of the current parliament member period. The Council would like to seek industry input from member companies on the Cybersecurity and Resilience Bill. Given that the regulation is targeted to be passed into law by the end of September, members are advised to provide concise input (including proposed new articles) by COB Friday, September 13. Please be in touch for copies of the Bill and comments matrix. Contact: Steven Gunawan (sgunawan@usasean.org) and Michaela Wong (mwong@usasean.org).
  • Final Call for Input on the Vietnam Draft Decree of the Law on Cybersecurity (LOCS):  The Council, along with BSA | The Software Alliance, has finalized its joint submission of comments for the Draft Decree of the Law on Cybersecurity.  Thank you to members who have provided input.  The submission is being translated and will be transmitted to the Government of Vietnam by September 13.   Contact: Ella Duangkaew (eduangkaew@usasean.org) or Jamie Lim (jlim@usasean.org).
  • Council presents ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) White Paper to ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM):  The Council presented its AEC White Paper, Harnessing Momentum Towards Greater ASEAN Economic Integration: Recommendations in a Time of Change, at the AEM-USTR Consultation during its 20th business mission to the AEM from September 8-10.  The paper served as a thematic foundation for the mission to AEM and focused on advocating for the rapid realization of an ASEAN Single Market and identifying key reforms to help achieve this goal in response to the current uncertainties in global trade, positioning U.S. companies as crucial partners in driving economic integration, and ensuring consistent stakeholder engagement on cross-sector issues such as e-commerce, standards, trade facilitation, and smart cities. See the mission press release.  
  • Council promotes interoperable data governance standards with new report:  The Council launched its new report, Digital Data Governance in ASEAN: Key Elements for a Data-Driven Economy alongside the 3rd and final ASEAN-U.S. Digital Policy Consultative Forum of 2019 on August 23 in Bangkok, Thailand.  The report emphasizes interoperability of standards and was developed through the Council’s Data Governance Sub-Committee. See the DPCF press release.
  • Final Submission on Vietnam's Online Curated Content (OCC) Regulation:  On August 13, the Council submitted its industry submission on Vietnam's Online Curated Content (OCC) Regulation (Draft Decree to Amend Decree 06/2016) following a door-knock Mission on this issue conducted by the Council from July 29-30.  Thank you to all who provided input to the submission.  Contact: Ella Duangkaew (eduangkaew@usasean.org) or Vu Tu Thanh (tvu@usasean.org).
Relationship Building
  • Council brings delegation to meet Malaysian Government, discussing Industry4WRD and 2020 APEC Chairmanship:  From August 20-22, the Council led a delegation of 20 leading U.S. global companies to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  The mission is part of the Council’s continued effort to position member companies as partners and stakeholders committed to Malaysia’s dynamic and inclusive growth.  The delegation met with top Malaysian government officials to understand ways in which the U.S. business community can support the government’s top goals and key initiatives, including the Industry4WRD national policy.  The mission also discussed Malaysia’s objectives and potential theme for its 2020 Chairmanship of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).  See the press release.
  • Council-led Innovation Forums expand from Manila to Bali:  In a collaborative effort between government and industry to acknowledge the necessity for an efficient innovative ecosystem, the Council and the Government of Indonesia hosted the First Indonesia Innovation Series on August 26 in Denpasar, Bali.  The event, in conjunction with the 24th National Technology Awakening day, acknowledged the rapid digital transformation of today’s age and provided forward-looking inclusive strategies to build on this digital transformation.  See the press release.
  • Council holds “Innovation for SMEs Go-Online: Winning the Global Competition” Workshop: On August 27, nearly 100 Indonesian SME owners and executives participated in a full-day workshop in Bali.  The Council conducted the workshop in close collaboration with Indonesia’s Ministry of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises (CSMEs).  See the press release.
  • Council hosts Roundtable on Investment Cooperation in Vietnam and Vinh Phuc Province:  The Council hosted Mr. Pham Hung Tam, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Vietnam and Mr. Nguyen Van Tri, Chairman of the Vinh Phuc People's Committee, for a roundtable discussion on September 4.  Areas of focus for the Vinh Phuc provincial leaders include automobiles, electronics, aviation and infrastructure.
  • Council meets ASEAN Energy Ministers to Discuss Ways to Improve Energy Security, Increase Energy Connectivity to Meet Rising Regional Power Demand:  From September 3-6, a delegation of seven major U.S. energy companies participated in the Council’s business mission to the 37th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) and Associated Meetings in Bangkok, Thailand.  It was the ninth time that the Council has led a business mission to AMEM, which brings together delegations from the Energy Ministries of all ten ASEAN countries, as well as the countries that participate in the AMEM+3 and the East Asia Summit Energy Ministers Meeting (EAS EMM). See the press release.
  • Council Holds 20th Consecutive Mission to ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meetings, Presents AEC White Paper on Doubling Down on ASEAN Economic Integration:  The Council led its 20th consecutive delegation to the 51st ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEM) for a business mission September 8-10.  The delegation had a plenary meeting with all  ten ASEAN Economic Ministers, bilateral meetings with heads of delegation from six ASEAN member states, the ASEAN Secretariat, and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, U.S. Government officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. Mission to ASEAN, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.  See the press release.
  • Council renews support for Philippine government’s policy priorities during 2019 Philippines Business Mission:  In an effort to promote free and open trade, address investment barriers and foster a stronger U.S.-Philippine relationship, a delegation of Council member companies will meet with government officials in Manila September 16-18, during the Council’s annual Philippines Business Mission.
  • Coming engagements with Thai and Malaysian heads of state at the UN General Assembly: The Council will hold two sets of roundtables, receptions and dinners in New York City to honor H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand, and H.E. Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia.  This is Prime Minister Prayut's first visit to the United States since being re-elected during the historic March 2019 ballot, the first elections in Thailand in eight years.  The dinner will also be an opportunity for follow-up engagement with the Prime Minister and his delegation following the Council's 2019 Thailand Business Mission in August.  Register here for dinner on September 25 with Prime Minister Prayut.  The Council also recently held its Malaysia Business Mission in August, and looks forward to the opportunity to hear Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir’s views on Malaysia’s future.  Register here for dinner on September 26 in honor of Prime Minister Mahathir.
  • “ASEAN Matters for America” launch event in Singapore:  The Council, in partnership with the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and the East-West Center, is pleased to launch the new edition of ASEAN Matters for America/America Matters for ASEAN in Singapore on September 27.  Register here.  This follows the July 23 Washington D.C. launch of ASEAN Matters, which highlights the numerous economic, cultural, diplomatic, educational and security ties between the United States and ASEAN countries.  See the press release.
  • Dinner for Vietnam’s Minister of Industry and Trade:  The Council will host a dinner to honor the visit of H.E. Tran Tuan Anh, Vietnam Minister of Industry and Trade, during his visit to Washington, D.C, on September 30.  Register here.
Looking Ahead
Upcoming Events See our full calendar
Media Highlights
CNBC, Mon, 26 Aug 2019: Alexander Feldman of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council says U.S. companies are "seriously looking" to move supply chains to Thailand from China amid the trade war between Beijing and Washington. See the interview here.
Membership Update
We are pleased to welcome Population Services International (PSI) to the Council.  PSI has joined at the Corporate level, as of September 15. The Council now has 74 Corporate members and 86 Chairman’s Council members.
Country and Industry Updates
See our most recent Updates and Analysis for more detail:
Brunei
Cambodia
Indonesia
Laos
Malaysia
Myanmar
Philippines
Singapore
Thailand
Vietnam
ASEAN
Customs & Trade Facilitation
Defense & Security
Energy
Financial Services
Food & Agriculture
Health & Life Sciences
Information & Communications Technology
Infrastructure
Manufacturing
Travel & Tourism
Questions? Please contact Monica Chritton at mchritton@usasean.org
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