Angelyn Lim of Dechert¢â‚¬â„¢s Hong Kong office has reported on developments in establishing an ASEAN funds passport, and most recently highlighted the news that Thailand and Singapore are leading the way in establishing a Ucits type fund passport across the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN).
In an interview with Asia Pacific Intelligence, Lim said that, in a way, Thailand and Singapore have stolen a march on the other countries interested in forming some sort of funds distribution union. "The fact that the two regulators have actually announced that ¢â‚¬Ëœthis is what we are proposing¢â‚¬â„¢ implies there can probably be no turning back now" she said. "It will likely start as a pilot scheme, with these two countries and then possibly expand to include others, perhaps Malaysia and/or Indonesia."
In background to the development, Lim explained that certain Asia-Pacific countries have been pushing for a funds passport for some years. "Specifically Australia and New Zealand were very keen to have an Asian Ucits-type passport." One factor limiting the development has been the Australian tax regime which is not conducive to passporting arrangements with offshore funds. "There appears to be government support for a passporting arrangement and a more conducive domestic tax regime but it has not yet translated into practical action."
The ASEAN trading bloc is the only one that exists in Asia and has expanded from its original five countries to 10 and now also includes Myanmar. "In November 2007, ASEAN member states adopted the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2015, which outlines the goals and timelines of implementing the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.‚ The AEC is anticipated to establish ASEAN as a single market and production base which will be similar to the EU."
While talks continue, much remains unclear. Lim thinks that an ASEAN funds passport could be appealing to offshore funds as well, particularly if the pre-requisite to utilising the passport is only for the fund to be authorized or registered for retail distribution in one ASEAN jurisdiction with the new passport. "But if funds have to be domiciled in an ASEAN jurisdiction too, then that would be a different story" she says. "The way things are going now it makes sense for Asia to have its own version of Ucits but the stumbling block is that you have 10 different countries in quite different stages of development and regulatory and investment characteristics which have a huge differential, as opposed to the more homogenous Ucits environment."
This article was published in Opalesque's Asia Pacific Intelligence our monthly research update on alternative investments in the Asia-Pacific region.