Category Asean

Vietnam proposes ideas to deepen ASEAN ties with 10 partners

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh has proposed initiatives to deepen ASEAN ties with 10 of its partners including China, the Republic of Korea, India, Russia, the US, the EU, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Priority should be on boosting connectivity; narrowing the development gap; and improving the capacity to cope with emerging threats such as trans-national crime, maritime security and safety, disaster management and epidemic prevention, he said, speaking to the ASEAN+1 Foreign Ministers’ Meetings with 10 dialogue partners in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on August 5. The Vietnamese representative also spoke highly of the partners’ support for ASEAN in its community building and maintenance of ASEAN’s central role in the region. He pointed out advantages and challenges facing the region, important issues regarding the regional security architecture, cooperation among ASEAN member states and between ASEAN with partners for peace, stability and development in the region. He expressed concern over the ongoing complicated developments in the East Sea that have changed the status quo and seriously threaten peace, stability, maritime and aviation security and safety in the East Sea. The senior official also urged countries to continue supporting ASEAN and peace and stability in the region as well as pushing parties concerned to abide by basic principles on the settlement of disputes by peaceful means in line with international law—especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, refrain from the use of force and threat to use force, exercise self-restraint, fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea and shortly formulate a Code of Conduct in the East Sea. On behalf of Vietnam as a Country Coordinator of ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations, Deputy PM Minh also co-chaired the ASEAN-EU Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and highly valued the positive progress of bilateral ties over the past three years with the first-ever informal ASEAN-EU Summit held in May 2014 as a key milestone. He called for pushing forward coordination across priority fields of trade, investment, connectivity, development gap narrowing and improving capacity to deal with non-traditional security challenges such as disaster management, climate change and anti-terrorism. The Deputy PM suggested devising a roadmap towards an ASEAN-EU strategic partnership and considering the organisation of an ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit in 2017 to mark the 40 th anniversary of their dialogue relations. At the end of the meeting, Vietnam transferred the role of coordinator for ASEAN-EU relations to Thailand while assuming the role of country coordinator for ASEAN-India relations in the 2015-2018 period. By VNAThe post Vietnam proposes ideas to deepen ASEAN ties with 10 partners appeared first on Asean Investment | Marc Djandji Blog.

A new Chinese company launches in Vientiane

The number of Chinese investments in Laos is increasing after the government gave the green light in order to boost cooperation, trading and the economy. The Chengdu Bayi (Lao) Investment and Trading Co., Ltd is one of the Chinese companies which was officially launched in Vientiane on Saturday after it saw potential in Laos. The ceremony was attended Lao government officials from different sectors including the industry and commerce sector and the Government Office, along with Chinese business entrepreneurs. Laos has rich natural resources, a good culture and is peaceful, which offers good potential for investment, Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mr Bounmy Manivong said at the opening ceremony. In previous years, the Lao economy has continually expanded and Laos also shares a border with China and the two countries have a good relationship with each other, he said. He ensured that the investment of the company in Laos will contribute to the economic development of the country as well as boost the relationship between Laos and China. Investment in China has increased cooperation in the trading relationship and the investments of both governments. China has become the top foreign investor in Laos, said Mr Bounmy. The Chengdu Bayi (Lao) Investme nt and Trading Co., Ltd is in Laos as a part of the Chengdu Bayi Furniture Group development, said Chengdu Bayi President, Mr Wang Xuemao. The company will operate investment in different areas in Laos such as real estate, the timber industry, import and export trading and business consultancy, he said. The company plans to construct the Chengdu Bayi trading complex centre in Vientiane with the aim to sell high quality goods such as household equipment, construction equipment, electrical equipment. It will feature a shopping mall, entertainment and public parking. Mr Wang believed that the investment of company will encourage more Chinese business operators, especially in Sichuan province. By post A new Chinese company launches in Vientiane appeared first on Asean Investment | Marc Djandji Blog.

Approved projects reach $3 billion in first half

Cambodia has approved more than $3 billion in investment projects in the first half of the year, nearly double the total value signed up in the whole of last year, the latest data from the Council for the Development of Cambodia shows. The government signed of on $3.1 billion from January to June, compared to just $1.6 billion in the entirety of 2014, according to the CDC. China tops the list with value of projects registered, followed by South Korea, the European Union, Malaysia and Vietnam. The main sectors are tourism, industry and services according to the data, although the CDC did not provide a detailed breakdown. Independent Economist Srey Chanthy said the lure of cheap labour, when businesses were eyeing the benefits of the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community, where among the attractions for investors coming to Cambodia. Although, Chanthy added, that not all approved projects are likely to see the light of day. “Normally, it does not take long for the CDC to approve requested or proposed investments as long as investors have all required papers. But real investments is something else because sometimes certain investments are not worthwhile, so investors just drop them,” he said. Song Saran, the owner of Amru Rice, one of Cambodia’s largest rice exporters, said the agriculture industry has a lot of potential for further investment, but said it was challenging for local investors who could not source capital as cheaply as foreign investors. “It is a big concern for local rice millers and exporters. We have already lost some market share to international investors, as they have more marketing networks, financing, and experience,” he said. In early July, the International Monetary Fund projected that Cambodia’s GDP to grow by 7 per cent this year, at a similar rate to last. Growth would be driven by construction, real estate and garments exports while the inflation is expected to rise moderately to 2.6 per cent by the year’s end due to the sharp oil decline in oil prices, the IMF said. By phnompenhpost.comThe post Approved projects reach $3 billion in first half appeared first on Asean Investment | Marc Djandji Blog.

One Asean stand may stop China

10-nation bloc urged to protest land reclamation THERE is a chance that China will stop its island-building spree in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and other areas if all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Japan agree to issue a united stand against Beijing’s sea activities, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said. “In this part of the region, a collective voice is much stronger than a few. The whole of Asia, Asean is a very strong voice. If [Asian nations] can [stay] together, much better,” Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said in a statement released Sunday. Padilla added that China will likely listen if more countries will speak out against its dredging activities in a number of reefs that are also being claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Japan. “Maski na mali kami, kami pa rin ang tama parang ganun ang mentalidad nila, kasi kung titingnan nyong mabuti ang history ng China, talagang ganyan ang ugali nya, ang treatment nya sa sarili nya sya yung sinimulan ng sibilisasyon, siya yung center ng mundo [Even if we are wrong, we are still right, that’s China’s mentality. If you will look at the history of China, that has been its attitude. It sees itself as the start of civilization, the center of the world],” he pointed out. The AFP spokesman noted that concerns voiced by various think thanks and the issues they present are the same issues that the Philippines has been raising all along. “It only goes to show that what we have been saying is shared by many and that all nations ought to speak out as well so that hopefully, with that one voice, China will listen and not use might versus what is right and it may as well go by the rules-based approach that all peace-loving nations conform [with],” Padilla explained. In a recent report, The New York Times said China’s land reclamation projects in disputed territories had created seven new islets in the region at an alarming speed. “The announcement marks a change in diplomatic tone, and indicates that China has reached its scheduled completion on several land reclamation projects and is now moving into the construction phase,” the report said, quoting Mira Rapp-Hooper, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It said China has built port facilities, military buildings and an airstrip on these islands. Padilla said other countries are hesitant to speak out against China because they are protecting their interests, particularly on the economic front. He, however, opined that China will not slap economic sanctions on these countries because Beijing is also dependent on trade. “Dependent siya kasi sa paglabas ng trade para naibebenta niya yung goods niya. Dependent rin siya sa pumapasok na goods na kailangan niya para mag-produce so give and take yan, so pag naging solitary economic unit lang siya, hindi siya magpo-prosper [Because China is also dependent on trade right? It needs other nations to be able to sell its goods. It is also dependent on the goods that are coming in [from other countries]. So it is just give and take. If it becomes a solitary economic unit, it will not prosper],” Padilla said While the G7 or Group of 7 that is comprised of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States have spoken against China’s unilateral actions such as large-scale reclamations in disputed waterways, the AFP spokesman also noted that the Asean had been silent on the issue. “[That is our challenge. Asean should have one solid voice],” the AFP official said. Last month, the Philippines sent a delegation to The Hague to convince a United Nations-backed international tribunal to take jurisdiction of the complaint filed by Manila challenging China’s claim to almost the entire West Philippine Sea. The Philippines and fellow Asean members Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims to South China Sea areas along with China and Taiwan. The dispute grew increasingly tense in recent years with the Philippines at the forefront of accusing China of “bullying” in asserting its claim to the South China Sea, a crucial lane and fishing ground also believed to hold vast mineral resources. In recent months, the Philippines had raised the alarm over China’s land reclamation to turn outcroppings in the sea into artificial islands that can host military outposts. Asean, which also includes Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand, has been pushing for the establishment of a “Code of Conduct” with China that would bind the rival claimants not to take actions that could spark conflict in the region. Despite their appeal for unity, Asean members have diverging agendas, and the bloc has had difficulty taking a common stand on China, which has close relationships with several members. Hotline Also on Sunday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Asean and China are discussing setting up a “hotline” in case of an emergency regarding the territorial disputes. The proposed hotline was discussed during a meeting of senior diplomats from China and Asean in Tianjin last week, Charles Jose, DFA spokesman, said. Jose added that the matter had been referred back to a joint working group and was still far from fruition. “Although this was agreed in principle as an early harvest measure, it needs thorough discussion,” he said in a statement. Jose added that the hotline will not be unveiled at an upcoming meeting of Asean foreign ministers. Experts, however, said Asean should look at the bigger context of its ties with China and not be bogged down by the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. “The territorial flashpoints in the South China Sea are not going away, but then again Asean-China relations have always been more than just the South China Sea,” Benjamin Ho, a maritime security researcher, said. Ho, associate research fellow at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, said the Asean-China relations are largely very stable at the moment. Such ties were further strengthened with the Asean support for the recent Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank initiative by the world’s second largest economy. Ho said having a “Code of Conduct”or COC will certainly help clarify interests of the respective countries. Nonetheless, a COC does not guarantee that tensions will ease among the parties, which have interests in the area involving two island chains — the Paracels and the Spratlys, a major shipping route and home to fishing grounds that contribute to the livelihoods of people across the region. Meanwhile, Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Center for Global Sustainability Studies director Dr. Kamarulazizi Ibrahim said there was a need for Asean to extend further its friendship to China, which could provide a platform for Asean members to discuss with dialogue partners on issues surrounding the South China Sea. Kamarulazizi said the members of Asean, whose population is about 600 million, need to sit and discuss the territorial claims, not only those affecting borders but economic activities like fishery, shipping routes as well as safety of the area. “We should project to China that the Asean region is a growing economy, where China is also benefiting from the rapid growth. Asean needs to promote its success and show the superpower the bloc’s rapid improvement,” he added. Meanwhile, USM Pro-Chancellor Tan Sri Mustafa Mansur said Asean members should work cohesively for solidarity in addressing the South China Sea disputes. “We have to be very careful in handling this matter,” added the former president of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers. By FERNAN MARASIGAN - manilatimes.netThe post One Asean stand may stop China appeared first on Asean Investment | Marc Djandji Blog.

China to invest $1.75 billion to build Vietnam power plant

China will invest a whopping USD 1.75 billion in energy-hungry Vietnam to build a 1,200-MW thermal power plant that will help promote the neighbouring communist nation's economic development. Chinese enterprises will build the new units at Vinh Tan 1 thermal power plant in Vietnam's southern Binh Thuan province, state-run People's Daily reported. With a total investment of USD 1.75 billion, the contruction of the plant, reportedly the largest project in Vietnam operated by Chinese companies, is expected to be completed in four years. It is a joint investment venture of China's Southern Power Grid Company, China Power International Development Company (95 per cent of investment) and the Power Corporation under the Vietnam National Coal-Natural Industries Corporation. The project includes two generating units, with each 600 megawatts. The first unit will be put into use by the end of 2018, and the second one will be operated six months later. The plant, which is constructed under the build-operate- transfer contract, will help increase the power supply, create jobs, promote economic development and improve people's livelihood, said Hu Zucai, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, before the opening ceremony of the construction of Vinh in Hanoi on July 18. Vietnam is struggling to meet its increasing energy demand and has been cutting coal exports to save the fossil fuel for its use. In the first half of this year, Vietnam's coal exports dipped an estimated 76.3 per cent from a year ago to 1.08 million tonnes. By moneycontrol.comThe post China to invest $1.75 billion to build Vietnam power plant appeared first on Asean Investment | Marc Djandji Blog.

Indonesia clearing hurdles to attract foreign investment

The investment board in Indonesia is ramping up initiatives to attract funds into the country as it launches a massive infrastructure programme designed to accelerate modernisation and promote growth. In June, the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) announced plans to cooperate with the Bank of China in promoting Indonesia’s investment potential at a roadshow in Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces in July. While such moves underline BKPM’s aim of reaching out to potential investors in strategic countries such as China, the slow pace of investment as well as regulatory challenges for foreign investors remain key concerns. Infrastructure spend The BKPM said in April that China had, for the first time, broken into the top 10 biggest foreign investors during the first quarter, investing US$75.1 million in 200 projects in Indonesia. However, this was dwarfed by Singapore at US$1.2 billion and the US at US$292 million. Boosting investment will be crucial to funding the government’s planned US$150 billion infrastructure programme, including new ports, power stations and roads, over the next five years. “The upgrading of our ports and other maritime infrastructure depends on whether we can attract large pools of investment, due to the government’s limited budget and insufficient resources to make the necessary infrastructure improvements,” BKPM’s chairman, Franky Sibarani, told OBG. Sibarani told media in June that total direct investments would need to increase by more than 15 per cent per year on average over the next five years to achieve the government’s annual economic growth target of seven per cent by 2019. The early signs are good: foreign direct investment rose 14 per cent year-on-year to 82.1trillion rupiah (US$5.4 billion) in the first quarter of this year, according to BKPM data released in April. This represented a significant recovery after weak foreign inflows in 2014 due to uncertainty caused by legislative and presidential elections. One-stop shop for investment To attract more foreign investment, in January the administration of Joko Widodo launched a one-stop service for investment at BKPM that aims to streamline and simplify licensing procedures for foreign investors. “The one-stop service will play a key role in [improving the investment climate]. We provide a simple and integrated licensing programme to facilitate the process for investors,” Sibarani told OBG. The government has also introduced a new package of tax incentives and relaxed regulatory conditions. For example, investment in the power generation sector previously required as many as 49 permits and took more than two years to process. Now only 25 permits are needed and the process is completed in nine months. In the energy exploration sector, the number of licences needed has been reduced from 52 to 42. However, field operators still need to secure a staggering 341 licences from relevant ministries and another 101 licences from local governments. Alongside the regulatory challenges, the government also has to overcome jitters about policy enacted by the previous administration, including a ban on unprocessed mineral exports, which critics say has closed off some avenues to foreign investors. No-entry signs on some sectors In May 2014, Indonesia revised its negative investment list, which specifies business activities closed to non-Indonesians, with sectors ring-fenced for domestic investors including energy, agriculture, retail and storage, among others. Meanwhile, Article 50 of a Trade Law enacted the same year allows the state to arbitrarily impose limits to protect government interests, and Articles 67-72 allow restrictions as a measure to preserve domestic demand. In a June report, investment bank Morgan Stanley said private investment in Indonesia was likely to disappoint. “Companies were discouraged with overlapping regulations and increased uncertainty potentially impacting their investment plans in the foreseeable future,” it said. The current government is trying to mend bridges with foreign investors and has admitted mistakes were made. For example, Jakarta is looking to delay a ban on exports of copper and other mineral concentrates due to come into effect in 2017, though bauxite and nickel are still expected to be retained for domestic processing. Jakarta pressed on with last year’s ban on mineral exports, even though there is not enough domestic smelting capacity to process the country’s output. The new government’s efforts are already having an impact. Following meetings in May, business leaders from China and Japan have separately told Widodo that they remain committed to their engagements in Indonesia and intend to follow through on their investment plans. By The post Indonesia clearing hurdles to attract foreign investment appeared first on Asean Investment | Marc Djandji Blog.

Thailand grows solar power investment in Southeast Asia

Come December, Thailand will have more solar power capacity than all of Southeast Asia combined as record sums of money is poured into the sector in the hopes of nurturing a new energy source to help drive the region's second-biggest economy. Thailand has been shifting away from natural gas as once-plentiful reserves are expected to run out within a decade, forcing it to rely on imported fuel more than any other country in the region except Singapore. A plunge in solar-component costs and subsidised tariffs have also helped feed the country's solar boom. About 1,200-1,500 megawatts of solar capacity will be connected to the grid this year, requiring as much as 90 billion baht ($2.7 billion) of investment, Pichai Tinsuntisook, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries' renewable energy division, told Reuters. Thailand's solar capacity will rise to 2,500-2,800 MW this year from about 1,300 MW in 2014. That is almost six times more than the capacity added last year. The new capacity, while modest compared to Japan or Germany, will turn Thailand into the first significant solar power producer in a region where the sector has barely taken off. "Thailand has strong potential for both solar farms and rooftop solar systems," said Sopon Asawanuchit, managing director of advisory firm Confidante Capital, adding that its location in the sunny tropics is an advantage. While the bulk of the power will come from solar farms, rooftop solar panels may have enough capacity over the next five years to supply as many as 250,000 households in urban areas, renewables analysts say. Thailand aims to increase its solar capacity to 6,000 MW by 2036. That would account for 9 percent of total electricity generation, up from 4 percent in 2014, and be able to meet the electricity needs of up to 3 million households. Despite Southeast Asia's solar potential - thanks to abundant sunshine - Thailand is largely alone in boosting its capacity to harness the sun's energy. That's because its neighbours either have ample supplies of other energy sources such as oil, gas or geothermal power, or their governments lack the budget to invest in new technology and to support the sector with subsidies. The Philippines is starting to prepare similar plans, though they are still in an early stage. The Thai government is supporting the country's solar sector with feed-in-tarif subsidies of up to 6.85 baht ($0.2) per kilowatt-hour paid out over 25 years to energy producers. The boom has attracted foreign investors including Japan's Kyocera Corp, U.S.-based First Solar and China's Yingli Green Energy. Low maintenance "Sunlight is free," said Jormsup Lochaya, chairman of Bangkok-listed Superblook PCL, which has set a budget of 30 billion baht to invest in solar energy this year. "We have no (ongoing) material cost and no problem with staff expenses because the project needs about three staff to monitor," he said. Kessara Tanyalakpark, executive director of property developer Sena Development Pcl, agreed and added that solar has the lowest risk while other renewables such as garbage or tapioca may face unstable raw-material costs. Sena is among the latest companies diversifying into the solar business as the domestic property market slows in line with a sluggish economy. Shares in companies which aim to invest in solar power have outperformed the overall Thai stock market this year. Among them are Sena, Superblook, Gunkul Engineering and Communication and System Solution. Despite the current boom, some investors are worried solar power may be used as an excuse for some retail punters to speculate in the stock market, the Federation of Thai Industries' Pichai said. Pichai said some listed companies had also bought solar farms only to sell them later following gains in share prices due to the acquisitions. "Stock manipulation will undermine growth," Pichai said. ($1 = 33.8100 baht) By ReutersThe post Thailand grows solar power investment in Southeast Asia appeared first on Asean Investment | Marc Djandji Blog.