CARI Captures Issue 544: Malaysia to open its international borders in April

Malaysia to open its international borders in April

(8 March 2022) Malaysia will fully reopen its borders on 1 April 2022 following the prolonged lockdown since the pandemic hit in 2020. Vaccinated travellers will not need to go through a quarantine period though they will be required to undergo a Real Time-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test two days before departure and a professional Rapid Test Kit-Antigen (RTK-Ag) test within 24 upon arrival. Unvaccinated travellers will need to undergo five days of quarantine upon arrival and they will be subjected to the same COVID-19 protocols as unvaccinated locals which include not being allowed to dine in at restaurants.

Singapore extends vaccinated travel lanes to more countries

(4 March 2022) Singapore will open a new vaccinated travel lane (VTL) with Vietnam and extend its VTLs to Malaysia’s Penang and Indonesia’s Bali effective 16 March 2022. The extended VTLs will kick off with four daily flights each way between Singapore and Penang, as well as two daily flights from Bali-Denpasar to Singapore. Singapore’s new VTL with Vietnam will be launched a day after Vietnam reopens its borders for international tourism, restoring two-way quarantine-free travel between the countries. Applications for these new VTL routes will open on 13 March 2022.

Singapore plans to shift from VTLs to fully open borders

(9 March 2022) Singapore is planning to allow all fully vaccinated travellers from “low risk” and “general travel” categories to enter the country without having to undergo quarantine according to its transport minister who was speaking during a session in parliament, though a timeline was not mentioned. According to him, the timing of this will depend on the public health situation in the country among other things. Passenger traffic at Changi Airport was at 3% of pre-COVID levels in early 2021 but thanks to the introduction of VTLs in September 2021, this figure rose to around 15% in December 2021.

Singapore aims to up exports to US$733 billion by 2030

(7 March 2022) Singapore’s trade and industry minister unveiled a new plan that aims to grow the country’s exports to at least US$733 billion (S$1 trillion) and offshore trade to US$2 trillion by 2030. This will be achieved through the Trade 2030 strategy which will see the country growing its trade volume by widening the types of activities that it participates in and helping local enterprises break into overseas markets, as well as the Enterprise 2030 strategy which will help local enterprises at every stage of their growth. The new plan comes in addition to the Manufacturing 2030 plan launched in 2021 which aims to increase manufacturing value-add by 50% by 2030.

Indonesia tightens palm oil export curbs in a hit to global supplies

(9 March 2022) Indonesia will heighten its restrictions on palm oil exports for at least six months beginning 10 March 2022 by requiring exporters of crude palm oil and olein to sell 30% of their supplies locally, up from the current 20% requirement. The new restrictions come as the government looks to increase domestic supplies and suppress inflated cooking oil prices. The move could remove some 100,000 tonnes of palm oil each month from the global market, adding to a squeeze in global vegetable oil supplies caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a key global supplier of sunflower oil.

Thai exports under GSP and FTA privileges surged in 2021  
(4 March 2022) Thai exporters’ use of privileges provided under free trade agreements (FTAs) and Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) arrangements grew by 31.4% and 28.1% respectively in 2021, bringing the utilisation rate of FTA privileges to 78.2% up from 2020’s 76.5%. The FTAs that saw the highest growth in utilisation were ASEAN, China, Japan, Australia and India. Imports under FTA privileges also grew by 28.5% in 2021. Separately, Thai exporters’ utilisation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) rose by over 200% month-on-month as more exporters sought to utilise the agreement. Privileges for exports to Japan were the most in-demand.

Laos aims for annual GDP growth of at least 4%

(9 March 2022) The Lao government is targeting annual economic growth of at least 4% per annum from now till 2025 with annual GDP per capita income reaching US$2,880 by the same. The service sector is expected to contribute to 40.7% of GDP and grow at an annual rate of 6% during the period, followed by industry which will account for 32.3% of GDP and grow at 4.1%, and then the agriculture sector that will represent 15.3% of GDP and grow at 2.5% annually. Several initiatives will be implemented in the coming years to achieve this, including modernising the revenue collection system, reducing the national debt, and reducing red tape to attract more foreign investment.

RCEP Monitor

Yoon Suk-yeol wins South Korea’s presidential election

(10 March 2022) Asia’s fourth-largest economy has elected conservative Yoon Suk-yeol to be its president for the next five years. Yoon has said that he is for market-led approaches such as through private sector-led job creation as opposed to government projects. His other proposals include allocating US$40 billion to support small merchants and the self-employed affected by the pandemic, lowering capital gains and property ownership taxes, deregulating the virtual asset industry and raising the tax threshold for cryptocurrency investments, developing at least 2.5 million homes during his term, and establishing a trilateral dialogue channel between South Korea, North Korea and the United States.

New Zealand and South Korea announce new sanctions on Russia

(7 March 2022) New Zealand has introduced sanctions against Russia in response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the first time the country has had to introduce new legislation to do so as it would traditionally have implemented sanctions through the United Nations Security Council. These sanctions include the ability to freeze Russian assets in the country and stop Russian ships and aircraft from entering New Zealand’s borders. Meanwhile, South Korea has banned transactions with Russia’s central bank and frozen assets held by the bank and blocked exports of strategic items to Russia among other measures.

Honda and Sony join forces on new electric vehicle

(4 March 2022) Japanese giants Sony Group Corp. and Honda Motor Co. will establish a joint venture this year to design and develop an electric vehicle which they plan to start selling by 2025. The joint venture will utilise Honda’s automotive manufacturing expertise and Sony’s expertise in imaging, telecommunication and entertainment to create an out-of-the-box solution. Both companies’ shares fell after the announcement. The joint venture comes in addition to Honda’s existing electric vehicle program and platform partnership with General Motors.

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