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ASEAN Members Launch Cross-Border Fund Framework

by Mary Swire, LawAndTax-News.com, Hong Kong Friday, August 29, 2014

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Capital Markets Forum (ASEAN) has announced that its Framework for cross-border offering of collective investment schemes (CIS) is now operational in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, three of its member jurisdictions.

This Framework allows fund managers operating in a member jurisdiction to offer CIS, such as unit trust funds, constituted and authorized in that jurisdiction to retail investors in other member jurisdictions, under a streamlined authorization process. A set of common ASEAN standards has been established to ensure that participating fund managers have the necessary experience and track record in managing retail funds offered under the Framework.

Therefore, for example, qualified fund managers in Malaysia now have the opportunity to offer their products directly to investors in Singapore and Thailand. Correspondingly, Malaysian investors would also benefit from a wider range of investment products.

The announcement follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding for the ASEAN CIS Framework by the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Securities and Exchange Commission, Thailand (SEC Thailand) in October 2013.

Ranjit Ajit Singh, SC's Chairman, said: "This is a step towards the integration of ASEAN capital markets in line with the objectives of the ASEAN Economic Community 2015. ASEAN has one of the highest savings rates in the world which can be re-invested in the region to generate returns and contribute to the region's future growth prospects."

"Under this initiative, investors and fund managers can benefit and leverage off one of the most dynamic regions of the world, with a combined gross domestic product in excess of USD2.4 trillion," he added.

The three national investment authorities have issued a Handbook dealing with various aspects of implementation, including withholding tax and other tax issues.

Lee Boon Ngiap, Assistant Managing Director (Capital Markets), MAS, noted that "retail investors in ASEAN will benefit from an increase in the choice of funds for investment with the launch of the ASEAN CIS Framework. Fund managers in an ASEAN country will have a direct and efficient route to offer their funds to retail investors in other ASEAN countries. We look forward to the participation of more ASEAN jurisdictions in this framework over the coming years."

Vorapol Socatiyanurak, SEC Thailand's Secretary-General, also commented that "the implementation of the ASEAN CIS Framework will make a complete set of both the offering of ASEAN CIS to retail and non-retail investors, thereby opening the door for more business opportunities by the private sector and offer new range of products for investors to diversify their portfolios."

The member jurisdictions have also published a Handbook for CIS Operators of ASEAN CISs, which provides guidance to fund managers on various administrative and procedural matters including application procedures, the use of local distributors in the offering process, and the procedures for remittance of funds.

ASEAN CIS Framework is operational at a time when several countries within the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) – namely, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand and the Philippines, as well as Singapore and Thailand – are looking to establish an "Asia Region Funds Passport (ARFP)," which, when implemented, will also allow fund managers operating in a passport member economy to offer their funds in other passport member economies.

ARFP implementation is not planned, however, until 2016, and its membership still remains open to other APEC economies. Those that have expressed an interest in the project include Malaysia, together with Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam.

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