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ASEAN agrees on common ground for world’s largest trade bloc, RCEP

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ASEAN agrees on common ground for world’s largest trade bloc, RCEP | The Thaiger

ASEAN members reached common ground on the mega economic trade bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) during their meeting in Bangkok yesterday. RCEP will cover nearly half of the global economy.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of ASEAN – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam – and the six Asia-Pacific states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

The next step is to negotiate the remaining 13 chapters of the trade deal together as a bloc at the upcoming senior economic officials’ meeting to be held in Melbourne, Australia between June 25 and July 3.

The mega-trade deal, which has been stuck in negotiations for the past seven years, has a total of 20 chapters, seven of which have now been completed.

In 2018, trade between the RCEP countries represented up to a third of global trade. Thailand’s trade value with the RCEP countries was worth some US$70 billion in 2018. Thailand’s exports to the RCEP countries currently accounts for nearly 60% of its total exports.

Thailand, as this year’s ASEAN chair, has set a bold target of completing the negotiations for this mega-trade pact by the end of 2019.

Negotiating with the remaining six members as a 10 country bloc will allow ASEAN to facilitate more progress in the negotiations process when the 16 RCEP countries meet.

Vietnam’s PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc, speaking to The Nation said, “In the context of increasing trade tensions and protectionism, promoting RCEP negotiations bear an important meaning as it strengthens rule-based multilateral economic connectivity and free trade throughout the Asia Pacific region.

The Vietnamese prime minister revealed that the 28th round of RCEP negotiations will be hosted by Vietnam in October, which will be the last round of negotiations this year ahead of the third RCEP Summit in Bangkok, which will be held in November.

“Vietnam hopes that for the spirit of broadening cooperation, ensuring equality and mutual interests, all sides will reach an agreement to finalise the RCEP negotiations as promised.”

The current challenge is that India and China, members of the trade bloc, have no free trade agreement to build upon, and have been holding up completion of some chapters to gain leverage in negotiations on other chapters. Hence, the remaining 13 chapters will be concluded together as they are interlinked with one another, according to a source familiar with the matter who asked to remain anonymous.

SOURCE: The Nation



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ASEAN

More currencies in Asia strengthen – Indonesian rupiah crosses major threshold

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More currencies in Asia strengthen – Indonesian rupiah crosses major threshold | The Thaiger

The Thai baht isn’t the only Asian currency performing well against some of the western currencies. The Indonesian rupiah has strengthened 0.54% to 13,932 to the US dollar yesterday (Monday) from 14,008 on Friday.

It became the best performing currency in Asia, though other currencies in the region have also also strengthened: Yesterday there was improvement of 0.19% for the Malaysian ringgit, 0.13% for the Chinese yuan, 0.08% for the Taiwanese dollar, 0.05% for The Philippine peso, 0.02% for the Singapore dollar and 0.02% for the Thai baht.

Investment company Money Investindo analyst Faisya said the Indonesian rupiah’s appreciation has been triggered by domestic factors, particularly the meeting between Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo with his main political rival, Prabowo Subianto, over the weekend.

“The political situation has calmed down and investors are now confident about Indonesia’s economic development,” Faisyal said as quoted by kontan.co.id, adding that the rupiah exchange rate could be maintained above 14,000 rupiah to the US dollar.

He added that external positive sentiments, namely the speech of US Federal Reserve chair Jeromy Powell who said he was open to the possibility of lowering the Fed’s key rate, also contributed to the rupiah’s appreciation.

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ASEAN

Vietnam pushing to be leading digital economy in ASEAN by 2030

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Vietnam pushing to be leading digital economy in ASEAN by 2030 | The Thaiger

Excerpts from Viet Nam News – Asia News Network

Vietnam wants to be the leading digital economy in ASEAN by 2030.

A draft project on national digital transformation by Vietnam’s Authority of Information Technology Application (AITA) is being submitted for approval in November. The project aims to develop the Vietnamese economy based on digital technologies.

Speaking at a conference this week to review MIC’s activities in the first half of the year, Vietnam’s AITA director Nguyen Thanh Phuc said that all people would be able to participate in the digital economy.

Phuc said the main targets would include improving the competitiveness of the economy, with the average growth rate of the digital economy reaching 20 per cent a year, and labour productivity growth of 7-10% by 2030.

The project also aims to take Vietnam into the global top 20 and ASEAN top three in terms of the global competitiveness index, as well as building a transparent and effective government to be in the world’s top 50 in terms of e-government. The project also plans to have everyone using mobile payment services by 2030.

The AITA has proposed that the digital transformation road map in Vietnam would be implemented in three phases…

• the country would digitalise industrial sectors and implement digital transformation of the economy, society and State agencies from 2020-22

• it would focus on digital transformation to improve labour productivity, creating new growth momentum and competitiveness from 2023-25

• it would move towards the development of a comprehensive digital economy and society from 2026-30

Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications stated that Vietnam needed to develop a safe network security ecosystem. There would be some 100 network security businesses in the next two years while 50 network security products and services by Vietnamese firms would be widely used. The number of specialists in the sector would reach some 1,000 people and bring the market to US$1 billion to $2 billion by 2020.

Statistics from the ministry show that the network security sector has seen strong development. In the first half of the year, there were 20 firms granted business registration on trading of network security products and services.

Read the full article HERE.

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ASEAN commit to eliminating marine plastic

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ASEAN commit to eliminating marine plastic | The Thaiger

“At present, four ASEAN members are the world’s top ocean polluters, namely Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.”

At the recent 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok last month the 10 member states of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asia Nations) adopted “The Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in the ASEAN Region” in an effort to eliminate marine plastic debris in the region. ASEAN officials describe the document as a testament to the group’s attempts to address the problem in a serious and sustainable manner.

“ASEAN agreed to concentrate on the issue of marine debris, which has a widespread impact on the well-being, health and hygiene of people, marine life and resources” said PM Prayuth Chan-o-cha.

Thai PBS reports that, at present, four of the ASEAN members are the world’s top ocean polluters – Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand – according to a 2017 report by Ocean Conservancy. Each country is now individually attempting to curb the cataclysmic issue.

For example, Indonesia is the world’s second-largest producer of plastic waste after China, contributing around 3.22 million tonnes annually. With Bali’s beaches suffering from the plastic litter problem for years, the island’s governor has imposed a ban on single-use plastics, aiming to reduce the amount of plastic waste by as much as 70% within a year.

ASEAN commit to eliminating marine plastic | News by The Thaiger

The Philippines generates an estimated 1.88 million tonnes of plastic waste every year.  In a show of its seriousness in dealing with the problem, the Philippines returned 69 shipping containers of illegal rubbish back to Canada after a long-running dispute between the two countries. Likewise, Malaysia, the world’s top destination for plastic waste after China, will send as much as 3,000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste back to the countries of origin.

Thailand is currently the world’s sixth largest source of plastic polluting the ocean, with 1.03 million tonnes each year. The government has taken a proactive approach by initiating the Roadmap on Plastic Waste Management for 2018 – 2030. The goal is to reduce or eliminate three types of plastic by the end of this year, including plastic cap seals on water bottles, oxo-degradable plastics and microbeads.

By the end of 2022,  Thailand hopes to be free of plastic bags less than 36 microns in thickness, styrofoam food boxes, plastic straws and single-use plastic cups. Finally, 100% of plastic waste will be recyclable by 2027.

“When you reuse, the reduction comes” said Dr. Thevarak Rochanapruk, an expert in petrochemicals and a member of The Interdisciplinary Network of The Royal Institute of Thailand.

“This policy really is a good start, very good, but now they cannot do it alone. The government needs help from public sector and from the media, academia and so on. Raising public awareness is the key because they are the ones using plastic” he added.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Thai PBS

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