The ASEAN Market Enjoys Dramatic Expansion Potential

On 20 September 2013, two agreements with the potential to significantly expand the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) market were announced.

Of the two, the Asian Region Funds Passport will have the most immediate impact on Australian and Singapore trade.  The other, the consolidation of free-trade negotiations between the EU and Singapore by the initialling of the text of the proposed agreement, is most exciting for Singapore but has longer term benefits for all of Southeast Asia.

The Asian Region Funds Passport

On 20 September 2013, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand and Singapore signed an initial agreement to commence a pilot program for the Asian Region Funds Passport in 2016.

The Passport will enable fund managers and investors in each of the four countries to access investment opportunities within the other countries on the same regulatory framework.

In circumstances where the four Passport countries have a total of $US3 trillion in funds under management, the Passport will significantly expand the investment opportunities for wholesale and retail investors in those countries, as well as enable fund managers to compete with the traditional European funds that currently dominate the Southeast Asian market.

There will also be significant flow on benefits to the financial services and supporting industries of each Passport country conducting and managing these investments.

Between now and 2016, the Passport will undergo public consultation, refinement and implementation phases.

EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement

The proposed EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement is, according to the European Commission Directorate-General for Trade, one of the most comprehensive trade agreements ever negotiated.

Subject to its approval by each of the parties, the Chief Economist Unit of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Trade has predicted that the Agreement will increase EU exports to Singapore by approximately €1.4 billion over 10 years.  Singapore’s exports to the EU is expected to increase by £3.5 billion.

The Agreement is seen by the EU as key to growing its trade opportunities within the ASEAN region, particularly within its growing economies.

It is intended that the Agreement will also incorporate a chapter on investment protection, the result of a negotiated mandate with its genesis in the Lisbon Treaty which specifically proposes investor-to-state dispute settlement provisions.

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