Change of ASEAN Chairmanship from
Singapore to Thailand
Last year, Singapore was focusing on the themes of ‘resilience’ and ‘innovation’ as Chair of ASEAN for 2018. As ASEAN was always been affected by external forces, and the challenge was to “collectively build a bigger, stronger ship” that will allow it to navigate “external tsunamis”, Singapore focused on strengthening ASEAN’s resilience and expanded its innovative capacity. For this year, Thailand is embracing The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as it is driven by new advanced technologies has brought about unprecedented, rapid, transformative, and irreversible changes to the way we produce, work, live and interact.
ASEAN will look towards the future and move forward together dynamically, making use of technological advances from the 4IR and enhancing our competitiveness. ASEAN will also build immunities from disruptive technologies and future challenges, especially for MSMEs, so as to advance towards a “Digital ASEAN”.
ASEAN-BAC Malaysia Chairman Tan Sri Munir As One Of The Economic Action Council (EAC) Members
11 February 2019 | Putrajaya
Recently, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced the establishing of the Economic Action Council (EAC), which will respond to and take action to address economic issues faced by the public, based on their feedback.
The council was formed to respond and act on feedback of the people regarding problems they had been facing, particularly matters related to economy. The key objective of the council is to encourage and stimulate sustainable economic growth, equitable distribution of wealth and further enhance the people’s wellbeing.
Members of the council include Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as chairman, along with Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Ignatius Darell Leiking and the Prime Minister’s economic adviser Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid.
Other members of the council include former International Trade and Industry Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, Permodalan Nasional Bhd chairman Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz and Council of Eminent Persons member Prof Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram, ASEAN-BAC Malaysia Chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohd Munir Abdul Majid, Public Bank Bhd managing director Tan Sri Tay Ah Lek, Majlis Amanah Rakyat chairman Dr Hasnita Hashim, Bursa Malaysia chairman Datuk Shireen Ann Zaharah Muhiudeen, Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (FOMCA) chief executive officer Datuk Dr Paul Selvaraj, lawyer Bah Tony @ Amani William Hunt Abdullah and MASA institute board of trustees member Nizam Mahshar.
ASEAN-BAC Malaysia Welcomes
New Council Member, Mr. Raja Singham
Co-founder and Managing Director of the BAC Education Group, Raja Singham is an educator, entrepreneur and a founding member of a range of companies specialising in education, corporate training, advertising, publications, event management and IT development.
Raja founded Brickfields Asia College (BAC) in 1991 at the age of 24 which grew to become the largest law school in Malaysia.
Named Education Man of the Year by the Brand Laureate for his significant contribution to the education sector, he has implemented various initiatives to improve education and access to education in Malaysia. He also received the National Outstanding Educator Award in 2015 from the Private Education Co-operative of Malaysia.
CARI Briefings on “Leveraging ASEAN solutions for trade through ASSIST : The EU’s support under the ARISE Plus Programme”
8 January 2019 | Menara CIMB, KL Sentral
The European Union (EU) trade expert calls for private sector to fully utilise the ASEAN Solutions for Investments, Services and Trade (ASSIST) as the best platform to address intra-ASEAN trade problems that limit SMEs’ ability to take advantage of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) – the regional integration agenda that has an end goal to facilitate the free movement of goods, services, investment and freer flow of capital across ASEAN.
The ASSIST initiative, under the support of ASEAN Regional Integration Support by the EU (ARISE) Plus, is a non-binding and consultative mechanism that helps expedite solutions for operational cross-border problems related to the implementation of ASEAN economic agreements encountered by ASEAN -based entities.
The online solution allows businesses encountering problems exporting goods or services (the latter effective second quarter of 2019) to other ASEAN countries to lodge e-complaints, interacting directly with ASEAN Member State (AMS) Governments.
Paolo R Vergano, trade facilitation key expert for ARISE Plus, said the private sector should increasingly assist ASEAN Member States in identifying and addressing Non-Tariff-Measures (NTMs), as well as removing Non-Tariff-Barriers (NTBs) within the region.
ASSIST is an ASEAN trade facilitation initiative under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) and AEC Blueprint 2025, which was established as part of the wider trade facilitation support that the European Union provides for ASEAN under its ARISE Plus programme, along with the ASEAN Trade Repository (ATR) and the ASEAN Customs and Transit System (ACTS), which ultimately all cater to the private sector.
Vergano said that trade facilitation is the key driver to enable the process of ASEAN regional economic integration and the fulfilment of the AEC. In particular, regulatory transparency is the bedrock of trade facilitation and a pre-requisite to traders complying with the applicable rules, protecting their rights, and taking advantage of the trade opportunities under the AEC.
“This is exactly what ASSIST aims at delivering and the ASEAN business sector should take advantage of it. The ASSIST mechanics are simple, cost-effective, direct and meant to provide complainants with answers to their questions and solutions to their problems within two to three months.”
Tan Sri Munir also concurred with the call for the SMEs to capitalise this platform while pursuing other channels of resolution. He added that frustrations in trade in goods and services are still far too many in ASEAN and the ASSIST mechanism is one way to break down these impediments.
ASEAN-BAC Meeting in Bangkok
January 21st – January 23rd | Bangkok, Thailand
ASEAN-BAC held its quarterly meeting in Bangkok as Thailand act as the chair country for this year, gathering its members from all ASEAN Member States.
Under Thailand’s Chairmanship in 2019, the theme is Empowering ASEAN 4.0 with focus centring around 3 key pillars:
- Human Capital Development
- MSMEs Assistance
- Mentorship (AMEN)
Mr. Arin Jira, the 2019 Chairperson of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC), discussed the readiness of ASEAN businesses, as well as the strategies to address the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 4IR-related challenges, including the availability, affordability, and accessibility digital infrastructure and the human costs of jobs displacement. In relation to this, he also referred to the 2019 ASEAN-BAC project, or the AHEAD (ASEAN Human Empowerment and Development in 4IR) Legacy project, which focuses on ASEAN human empowerment and development in the area of 4IR.
In line with ASEAN strategies, the meeting was filled with presentations by partner sector champions from GRAB, ASEAN Business Awards (ABA), ASEAN-BAC Healthcare Working Group, Teras360 Project and many others.
GRAB presented on how they are able to bring technology to achieve shared, smart, seamless ASEAN mobility in the future. The 6 years old rising company is interested in carrying a task force in order to help pushing secondary cities for ASEAN tourism sector. Key issues that has been discussed includes on how ASEAN-BAC could work together with GRAB in providing technological inputs to create a more inclusive economy.
ASEAN-BAC Healthcare Working Group was proposed by Chairman of ASEAN-BAC Malaysia, Tan Sri Munir where Malaysia presented in taking this up collectively. With the identification of Dr Hooshmand Palany as the Chairman of the ASEAN-BAC Malaysia Healthcare Working Group, an MOU was initiated to initiate the process of putting together the working group and start the process of developing the agenda and work plan. Each ASEAN country carries its own healthcare mandate to focus on specific issues of priority interest.
Teras360 is a London based company that was formed with Tan Sri Munir as the Chairman. Focusing on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Teras360 Malaysian and other experts wishing to come home and give back to society by helping in re-engineer institutions, companies and governments to adopt to 4IR.
In line with the Thailand Chairmanship of Empowering ASEAN 4.0, the Chairman of ASEAN-BAC Malaysia emphasized ASEAN-BAC Malaysia together with CIMB ASEAN Research Institute (CARI) will undertake a study on the impact of digital economy on employment to understand the impact of 4IR and the required reskilling and filling the gaps of ASEAN workforce. ASEAN-BAC Malaysia is also collaborating with CARI and ASEAN Business Club (ABC) is organizing Smart Showcase Series involving 4 sectors of Digital Finance, Artificial Intelligence, Smart Healthcare and Smart MSMEs.
The meeting sums up on the 2019 Council Priorities and Work Program which included the deliverance of the Thai Legacy Project: AHEAD, using the 4IR as anchor. The implementation will be continued by deepening the engagements in active platforms in Trade Facilitation, ACCMSME, Agri-Food and Financial Integration. In general, ASEAN-BAC will also tighten and strengthen the action agenda with partner sector champions: Trade Facilitation, Digital Economy, Healthcare, Tourism, Agriculture, Responsible and Inclusive Business, Good Regulatory Practice, Youth, Women in business, and Mobility of Professionals.
ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ Luncheon in Chiang Rai
April 4th | Chiang Rai, Thailand
The ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ Luncheon in Chiang Rai, Thailand was held on the 4th of April with a total of around 32 participants.
Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid presented to the ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) his Policy Recommendations on the ASEAN’s Financial Markets. He has been pushing for the luncheon dialogue ever since that he was the Chairman of ASEAN-BAC in 2015. He believes it was not sufficient that ASEAN-BAC only met the economic ministers and the leaders, but not the finance ministers and central bank governors as finance is the lifeblood of the economy.
At the meeting, the FMCBG agreed on a regular dialogue and involvement of ASEAN-BAC and its joint councils in the working groups under the FMCBG. It was also agreed that an expert financial services and capital markets working group be formed to help the ASEAN Secretariat and FMCBG in ASEAN financial market integration. This is something that Tan Sri Munir has been advocating since 2013 in his capacity as the President of the ASEAN Business Club which has been the main driver of ASEAN-BAC’s Financial Services and Capital Markets (FSCM) working group.
25th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Retreat in Phuket
April 22nd – April 23rd | Phuket, Thailand
ASEAN-BAC Malaysia Chairman Tan Sri Munir joined ASEAN-BAC Chair Arin Jira and the Council members from Thailand, along with Executive Director Gil Gonzales, in a dialogue with ASEAN Economic Ministers at their retreat, on 22nd April 2019.
At the dialogue Khun Arin related the ASEAN-BAC agenda for 2019 emphasizing Industry 4.0 and particularly emphasized the legacy project AHEAD (ASEAN Human Empowerment and Development).
Tan Sri Munir reported on activities being undertaken to make ASEAN Eready, including a research project by CIMB ASEAN Research Institute (CARI) which he chairs, on identifying the skills gap in realizing Industry 4.0. He also informed the ministers that CARI would be undertaking an annual ASEAN Business Sentiment Survey from this year. Right now all business surveys are only on and by foreign businesses, nothing on what ASEAN businesses think.
Tan Sri Munir also reported on the successful dialogue with ASEAN finance ministers and Central Bank Governors in Chiang Rai on 4th April, even if it took such a long time to get them to agree to what he has been instigating – 5-8 years!
The session was briefed by Gil Gonzales on the unsatisfactory progress on trade facilitation for which the intervention of the ministers was requested. There was no commitment from the ministers even on the matter of low value shipments which has been discussed for the last three years!
ASEAN Business Awards 2019
Every year, ABAC has been organising ASEAN Business Awards (ABA) to acknowledge and recognize outstanding ASEAN businesses that have shown significant progress along with expanding their network within the ASEAN business community.
This year, ABA 2019 will be highlighting more on the success of MSMEs sector within ASEAN along with other outstanding enterprises in their respective categories. ABA 2019 will be promoting new categories for the Most Promising Digitalised MSMEs & Most Sustainable Companies.