At the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore, ASEAN leaders jointly adopted the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2015 (AEC Blueprint), with the goal of establishing ASEAN as a single market and production base, with free flow of goods, services, investments and skilled labor, and freer flow of capital. The AEC Blueprint also sets out a broad general framework to strengthen ASEAN capital market development and integration by 2015.
The need for integration of regional capital markets is becoming increasingly necessary in order to grow and strengthen ASEAN’s resilience. ASEAN capital markets individually are small, with limited range of products and services and are relatively illiquid. ASEAN markets need to collaborate and achieve parity with developed markets in order to make ASEAN investors and issuers look to ASEAN as the market of choice.
Capital markets integration will allow for greater cross border access to investors and issuers, and help broaden the investor base and range of products, thereby strengthening domestic capital markets and providing liquidity, scale, capacity and ultimately put ASEAN in a better position to compete with more developed capital markets.
To ensure appropriate sequencing of initiatives and promote effective coordination and communication among ACMF members, the ACMF proposed to develop an Implementation Plan to Promote the Development of an Integrated Capital Market to Achieve the Objectives of the AEC Blueprint 2015 (“the Implementation Plan”). The Implementation Plan proposal was approved by the ASEAN Finance Ministers at the 12th ASEAN Finance Ministers’ Meeting (AFMM) in Danang, Vietnam in April 2008. The AFMM also requested the ACMF to submit the Implementation Plan to the next AFMM in Thailand.
In developing the Implementation Plan, the ACMF established a group of capital market experts drawn from the ASEAN region, known as the Group of Experts (“GOE”) to provide guidance on the development of the Plan to ensure that the Plan would be pragmatic and beneficial to the private sector. Members of the GOE are:
Aside from the GOE, Several other capital market experts were invited as “National Experts” to provide technical expertise in the formulation stage. In addition, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) played a key role by providing technical assistance under the Regional Technical Assistance Program to the ACMF. The ADB engaged a team of consultants who assisted with the formulation of the Implementation Plan. The formulation process was carried out through a series of meetings and ACMF-led workshops with the involvement of the GOE, National Experts and the ADB consultants team. In addition, inputs from agencies such as the Ministries of Finance, the Central Banks and the Stock Exchanges in the respective ASEAN countries were gathered during the process.
The AFMM at its 13th meeting in Pattaya, Thailand on April 9, 2009 endorsed the Implementation Plan as proposed by the ACMF and announced through its Joint Ministerial Statement that:
“…We endorsed the Implementation Plan to Promote the Development of Integrated Capital Market in ASEAN to achieve the objectives of AEC Blueprint by 2015. The Plan provides for a comprehensive approach at building an integrated regional capital market, with strategic initiatives and milestones, to strengthen financial intermediation, enhance capacity and manage risks to support national and regional growth…”
The Implementation Plan was based on six principles agreed upon by the ACMF. They are:
Adoption of international standards to the maximum extent possible.
Progressive liberalization to facilitate more open access and cost reduction through greater competition.
Sequencing of regional integration initiatives taking into account ease of implementation, market preferences and technical linkages.
Engage the ASEAN Secretariat as the main coordinator.
Consistent implementation of policies to support regional integration at country level, with effective monitoring mechanisms.
Strong communication plans and consultative processes to build consensus and set priorities for integration initiatives.
There are three broad themes in the Implementation Plan which cover a comprehensive set of key initiatives and specific implementation actions and milestones.
In addition, the Implementation Plan also specifies six strategic components with three distinct phases (Phase I: 2009-2010, Phase II: 2011- 2012 and Phase III: 2013-2015). The core strategy in the Plan is a mutual recognition and harmonization process of expanding scope and country coverage. The initial phase of the Plan focuses on establishing bilateral arrangements, and subsequently moving towards multilateral arrangements as more countries become ready to opt-in. The Plan has an initial focus on liberalization initiatives for non-retail investors, with a subsequent progressive focus on retail investors, complemented by an enhanced investor protection regime.
The Plan has identified the need for capital mobility, such as the liberalization of capital movement and the enhancement of tax regimes, to fully realize the benefits of the integration initiatives. These measures are outside of the ACMF’s remit and hence, require further assessment by the relevant authorities and working committees under the ASEAN process. In this regard, the ACMF has asked the ASEAN Secretariat to monitor and facilitate the implementation of these measures and also work with relevant authorities to ensure coordination of the ASEAN financial market integration.
By integrating regional capital markets, international financial institutions and global businesses that have operations linked to ASEAN can expand their business scope and explore broader business opportunities. Besides, international investors will have greater access to the products of ASEAN at a competitive fee from a single access point, with capital market intermediaries that can provide services throughout ASEAN based on home country approval.
One example of the integration initiative included in the Plan is the setting up of an ASEAN electronic trading link to enhance the competitiveness of ASEAN capital markets. This e-trading link, through one single access point, allows intra-ASEAN cross border trading and is envisaged to attract more international funds into ASEAN.
This ASEAN exchanges project which is expected to go live in 2010, will strengthen regional financial stability by deepening regional capital markets and facilitating progressive liberalization of the financial sector.
Full texts of the Implementation Plan for ASEAN capital markets integration are available here.