4 Apr 2013

WTI Contributes to Transforming Investment in Southeast Asia

From 19-21 March 2013, the World Trade Institute managed two major events in Malaysia under the theme, “Transforming Investment in ASEAN through ACIA” to discuss and promote the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA).

ACIA speeds up the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community, benefiting an economic region of over half a billion consumers. With four pillars featuring liberalisation, promotion, facilitation and protection of investments, participating businesses and cross-border investors are in a position to benefit from the agreement.

Targeting investment promotion agencies, the first event, a seminar on ACIA, was attended by 36 participants from ASEAN Member States. Dato’ Ku Jaafar Ku Shaari, Director General of the Malaysian Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR) and Suon Sophal, Chairman of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee of Investment, delivered the opening remarks. A faculty team comprised of Pierre Sauvé (WTI), Anna Joubin-Bret (Foley-Hoag, Paris), Sufian Jusoh (WTI) and Yu-Jin Tay (DLA Piper, Singapore), facilitated the seminar and explained the salient provisions of ACIA and how these could be of benefit to both investors and ASEAN host Member States.

A second event, structured as a business forum, served to introduce and promote a better understanding of ACIA – in particular its enhanced features and key provisions – to over 200 ASEAN investors, government officials and senior policy makers, academics and business representatives. Dato’ Noharudin Nordin, Chief Executive of the Malaysian Investment Development Authoirty (MIDA), delivered the welcoming remarks. His Excellency, Lim Hong Hin, Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN for the ASEAN Economic Community, delivered a speech entitled, “ACIA in Brief.”  Following his keynote address, Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohammad, Malaysia’s Minister of International Trade and Industry, formally unveiled the ACIA Guidebook for Businesses and the ACIA Handbook for ASEAN Investment Promotion Agencies prepared by a team of WTI experts working under the supervision of Pierre Sauvé and Sufian Jusoh.

Sufian Jusoh, WTI lead consultant in Malaysia, chaired the Forum’s first session, which discussed foreign direct investment inflows into ASEAN in the current context of global economic uncertainty. Panel speakers for the first session were Pierre Sauvé, Director of External Programmes and Academic Partnerships for the WTI, Jayant Menon of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Wendy Jo Werner from the International Finance Coporation (IFC), World Bank Group. Anna Joubin-Bret chaired the second session, which focused on the four pillars of ACIA, with panel speakers Dato’ Noharudin Nordin from MIDA and former WTI staff member Julien Chaisse, now Associate Professor of Law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), as well as Mohd Khairil Abdullah from Axiata, one of Asia’s leading providers of telecommunications services. Chaired by Pierre Sauvé, the third session discussed ACIA’s ability to address development gaps within ASEAN and enhance investment climates in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Panel speakers included Ambassador Chea Vuthy, from the Investment promotion Authority of Cambodia, and Ganesan Kolandevelu, the Head of KPMG Thailand. Sufian Jusoh chaired the final session on business expectations towards ACIA, with two private sector representatives, Dato’ Ramesh Koddamal of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council and Steve Brickell from Prudential Asia.

Both events were supported by the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program II, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) Malaysia and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA). The WTI is currently implementing three other projects in the Asean region, advising Axiata on selected investment-related and regulatory  issues in South Asian telecommunications and implementing two further projects funded by the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program II, dealing with licensing and mutual recognition in selected professional services in ASEAN as well as the impact on cross-border investment generated by the preferential trade and investment agreement linking ASEAN to Australia and New Zealand.