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The UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (UKSDEA) was signed and finalised in February and both parties have completed the legal requirements and procedures since. As officially announced by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during London Tech Week, the trade deal establishing rules and standards for cross-border data flows and data protection between Singapore and the United Kingdom came into force on June 14th.

The agreement aims to promote end-to-end digital trade by establishing standard digital systems for e-payments, e-invoicing, and the preservation of a safe digital environment, as well as encouraging small and medium-sized businesses to participate in the digital economy.

Furthermore, the agreement allows the UK to join Singapore in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), one of the world’s largest free trade agreements, which accounts for 13% of global GDP, or US$13.5 trillion.

In order to understand the implications of this highly innovative digital linkage that has been established between Singapore and the UK, the key features of the deal are listed as follows:

Advanced end-to-end digital trading, whether through secure e-payment systems and digital, paperless trading. This will reduce the transaction costs and time for businesses, and to further digitalize processes.

Trusted data flows. With protected source codes, data between both parties will be transferred seamlessly and data will not be localized. Furthermore, both parties will ensure submarine cable systems’ to be intact to ensure connectivity between both regions.

SMEs’ participation to the digital economy. Government information is made available to the public in easy-to-use APIs, with the aim of reducing the barriers to entry for SMEs to participate in the digital economy. Moreover, Singapore and the UK seek to promote growth for these SMEs through e-commerce platforms to create a link with global supply chains.

The article, as reported by ASEAN Briefing, can be retrieved here.

Thanks to this deal being put into force, Singapore and the UK are now freer than ever to enable new growth opportunities in the digital economy. For any of your international expansion needs, Altios is here to accompany you every step of the way.

Representatives from nine Southeast Asian countries, as well as the secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), gathered in Washington, D.C. for a two-day special summit. During this summit, the US has pledged to spend $150 million on Southeast Asian infrastructure, security, pandemic preparedness, and other initiatives aimed at reinforcing the ties between the U.S. and ASEAN, and implicitly at combating China’s influence in the region.

#1: Cooperation in maritime security (~$60 million)
The US Coast Guard will lead new regional marine activities with a budget of around $60 million. Among them are:

  • Programs to assist ASEAN nations in combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, as well as preventing forced labor in the fishing industry.
  • Deployment of a cutter vessel for security cooperation in Southeast Asia and Oceania, as well as a training platform. According to the White House, the cutter will be deployed across the region and will conduct training missions as well as participate in “cooperative maritime engagements.”
  • Additional US Coast Guard support for maritime law enforcement agencies in Southeast Asia, including the first deployment of a training team to the region.
  • Standardization of the energy safeguarding procedure, protection of critical maritime infrastructure and all-hazards response through training.

#2: Clean energy and Infrastructure (~$40 million)

Another $40 million will be used to help raise $2 billion in funding for clean energy infrastructure in the region, with the goal of speeding the adoption of clean energy technologies.

The United States will also implement programs to assist ASEAN countries in combating deforestation, reducing methane emissions, and increasing conservation. A new U.S.-ASEAN Climate Solutions Hub will give technical help to ASEAN governments, among other things.

#3: Public health (~ $15 million)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will roll out a $5 million program to boost pan-respiratory disease surveillance in Southeast Asia through its new regional office in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Furthermore, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will invest up to $10 million in regional programs to improve early diagnosis and community response to Covid-19, tuberculosis, and other airborne infections.

#4: Education (~$5 million)

The U.S.-ASEAN Institute for Rising Leaders, which will send public officials from ASEAN nations to the U.S. for professional and leadership training, will be launched by the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

The State Department will also expand its Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative and the Fulbright U.S.-ASEAN Visiting Scholarship Program. In addition, it will spend $3 million on English language programs in Southeast Asia.

Moreover, the State Department will launch a new exchange program for academic fellows from ASEAN universities to visit the United States and explore collaboration opportunities with US academics.

#5: Digital investments (~$10 million)

The United States will announce a $6 million regional strategy to boost innovation, strengthen digital economy rule-making, and support the adoption of global artificial intelligence standards.

The article, as reported by the Straits Time, can be retrieved here.

Southeast Asia presents promising growth and investment opportunities. With offices across the region, Altios is here to accompany small and mid-cap companies every step of the way on their journey towards international expansion.

Southeast Asia’s emergence as a fintech hotspot in recent years and the establishment of some of the world’s most advanced fintech markets in Asia has created many opportunities for businesses and consumers.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) issuing of digital full bank licenses to the Grab-Singtel consortium and tech giant Sea is a signifier of the liberalisation of the financial industry in Singapore and demonstrates how new players will take advantage of opportunities.

Considering that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted traditional banking services, and that more and more people and businesses are going online, adopting fintech has become crucial to maintaining Singapore’s reputation as one of the world’s top financial centres.

Thus, it will be interesting to see how the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) issuing of digital full bank licenses to the Grab-Singtel consortium and tech giant Sea will improve financing options for SMEs in Singapore and in other parts of Southeast Asia.

While the Big Three banks in Singapore, OCBC, DBS, and UOB already have robust digital services, Grab-Singtel and Sea expect to cater to small businesses and underbanked consumers. Examples include gig workers with flexible incomes, time-starved PMETs, and micro-SEMs who face limited financial access, and underbanked consumers.

According to the Grab-Singtel consortium’s CEO, Mr. Charles Wong, they hope to serve their target market through “personalised, accessible, and trusted financial products” that will be “powered by our next-generation cloud technology and data platform.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Mr. Forrest Li, chairman and group CEO of Sea, who emphasised that they wanted to “better the lives of consumers and small businesses through technology” and address the “underserved financial needs of young consumers and SMEs in Singapore.”

As more and more in funding is poured into fintech in Southeast Asia, which reported a CAGR of 55% in equity funding, SMEs can look to fintech to fulfil existing financing gaps, such as not being paid on time, being unable to secure sufficient funding, a lack of understanding in trade financing, and inadequate cash flow management.

Just like how the Singaporean financial sector has embraced fintech in its bid to remain a top financial centre, SMEs will have to explore fintech solutions if they want to continue to drive long-term sustainable, and inclusive growth. And with the recent digital bank licenses awarded, SMEs are sure to have a wider array of options and services to meet their needs.

ALTIOS looks forward to the roll out the newly created digital banks and helping small to medium size Fintech companies to strive in the region from the strategy to the implementation.

The full article, as reported by Fintech News SG, can be accessed here

While ASEAN’S heavy dependence on tourism and external demand growth have hurt it in 2020, its GDP is sprojected to rebound at a higher rate than the rest of the world (6.2% vs. 5.2% YoY) which is a positive for the region.

ALTIOS shares the implications for its clients and for regional opportunities.

Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has had widespread ramifications on the performance of equity markets all around the world. The pandemic has led to noticeable trends in performance in Asia, as the strongest performing markets have been those who have contained new COVID-19 infections the best, those able to provide significant government cash injections, and those less affected by weak tourism and export demand.  

Yet, variations in equity market performances within Asia and ASEAN have not dampened expectations for the equity market in 2021, as all equity markets across ASEAN have recovered to pre-Covid year highs (albeit within the 10-20% range).  

Another positive for ASEAN is the strong rebound in raw materials and industrial metal prices; China’s strong demand will be a key factor in the rebound of intra-Asian trade growth, and its evolving manufacturing sector can only continue to bolster the ASEAN equity market. 

Finally, recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement should end up being a positive for ASEAN equities which are often used as leverage in regional trade.  

ALTIOS believes that the aforementioned factors point to many opportunities for investors interested in Asian equities, especially agile ones that can pivot to the sectors with the greatest growth in the eventual post COVID-19 environment: technology, consumer staples, utilities, and healthcare. Investors can also look to rebounding sectors, like industrials and financials, for buying opportunities. 

While the business and financial landscape may have been disrupted by the pandemic, ALTIOS looks forward to helping their clients plan their futures and navigate the enticing opportunities that a rebounding market is sure to offer. 

The full article, as reported by Asia Fund Managers, can be accessed here

Altios shares our take on the RCEP and what this means for us and our ecosystem.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), said to be the biggest trade agreement to date, extends existing trade agreements signed between the ten countries of ASEAN (Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia ) and combines them into a multi-lateral agreement with Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and China. This deal represents around 25% of global international trade and 30% of the global GDP in value, reaching population of 2.3 billion individuals.

Details of the deal have not been published yet but will include bilateral tariffs, import taxes reductions, less constraints on FDIs, ease on regulatory aspects to export and/or invest within the RCEP area, and strengthen regional supply chains. These clauses will be greatly applicable in areas such as trading, e-commerce, intellectual property, test certifications, and technological cooperation.

The deal aims to promote multilateralism and free trade in Asia, and balance trade exchanges within the region. Some may also argue that this is a geopolitical move on China’s end to send a strong signal to the U.S.

There are however still some questions left unanswered: will India give in and sign the agreement and how will Australia-China trade relations develop in the future?  India had pulled out of negotiations last year but RCEP members said they remained open to India’s accession later. The country is currently protecting its domestic industry as lower tariffs could impact local producers, especially those in agriculture.

As for Australia  and China, experts says the RCEP won’t make any difference regarding trade tension between Australia & China, and we will have to wait for further detailed measures to judge since tariffs between two countries are already low.

ALTIOS believes that the RCEP would greatly help their clients due to the further strengthening of the Asia’s position as the global economic center of gravity and development of intra-Asian trade. This will give more accessibility to regulated or highly taxed industry sectors in China, sign that China is opening up to multilateralism. Furthermore, this will create opportunities for strong national industries in the region like cosmetics and F&B in Australia and promote these industries within the RCEP region. Country specifications can be organized to optimize regional trade, as China will open up to import more food and commodities providing great opportunity for ASEAN countries, and also open up its automotive sector, which is promising for Japan and Korea.

The full article, as reported by the Financial Times, can be accessed here.