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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    23  November 2010

Asean sees financial integration

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The Asean financial sector is gearing up to take advantage of the benefits of market liberalisation and new opportunities that will arise from the removal of trade and service barriers within the region over the next several years.

For Thailand, regulatory plans are in line with the overall time frame for Asean economic integration. In the near future, Thai regulators will begin to allow international banks to open more branches and could issue new licences for foreign operators.

Plans to liberalise capital accounts will facilitate outbound direct and portfolio investment in the region. Dr Bandid , a former deputy governor of the Bank of Thailand, said banking liberalisation would lead to convergence in the financial sector.

"But one important aspect is whether regional companies have enough trust in Asean players compared to better-known [international] names," he added.

Pote Videt, managing director for Lombard Investment in Bangkok, said Asean has recorded a fair share of global foreign direct investment, with the amount relative to size of the regional economy standing at 2 percent, on par with China.

"Asean was off the investor map in the last decade as [investors] wanted exposure in China and India," he said. "Now they are drawn by top performers like Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia." He said investors want to avoid the need to build up different teams or investments to suit varying regulations.

Willie Tham, chief executive of HSBC Thailand, said emerging countries would continue to lead developed economies in terms of economic growth.

Trade volume within the region would also continue to outpace global economic growth, he said. "Asean financing for investment in infrastructure will also present tremendous opportunities for banking over the next decade," he said.

Manfred Schmoelz, chief executive officer for Deutsche Bank, said the private sector needs to take a leading role in regional integration rather than wait for guidance from the public sector. Asean economies are forecast for 5-6 percent average growth in the future, better than Europe, but the region would continue to suffer from foreign exchange appreciation in the short term, he said.

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