Investments among the 10 member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is expected to significantly increase, and linkage among ASEAN micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with ASEAN and global multinational enterprises (MNEs) to further strengthened, as the regional bloc’s Coordinating Committee on Investments (CCI) in its 69th Meeting in Manila recently (February 20-22, 2017) agreed to push the Focused and Strategic Action (FAST) Action Agenda on Investment as among the Committee’s priority deliverables for the year.

Aligned with the four pillars of the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) namely investment promotion, facilitation, protection, and liberalization, the FAST Action Agenda is composed of four key deliverables.

The CCI is ASEAN’s technical body tasked to oversee the implementation of the ACIA since its effectivity in 2012. ACIA serves as the regional bloc’s instrument in support of the ASEAN Economic Community’s goal of free flow of investments in the context of an integrated ASEAN community. The Philippine Board of Investments (BOI), being the country’s lead for CCI, serves as host for the 69th CCI Meeting.

The first action agenda is focused on ASEAN-wide assessment of the outstanding issues on Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) where the key deliverable for the year is a document identifying the TRIMS plus elements that ASEAN may commit and adopt as a common ASEAN’s negotiating strategy.

The second action agenda is focused on linking MSMEs with MNEs where the key outcome are possible letter of intents (LOIs) and business collaboration between ASEAN MSMEs and MNEs. For this year, the Philippine will host the outbound mission from ASEAN where a conference and business meetings will be undertaken.

“Our goal is to showcase MSMEs as possible suppliers of products and services to MNEs. As we encourage them to strategically enhance their productivity, we will open up more opportunities for them to participate in the regional and global value chains,” said BOI Executive Director Ma. Corazon Halili-Dichosa, who also served as the Philippine Head of Delegation to the CCI.

During the meeting, it was discussed that Philippines will host a conference where MSMEs and MNEs from all over the region will participate which includes business matching, wherein possible linkages and agreements may be forged. As part of the preparation for the event, ASEAN Members States (AMS), have agreed in the 69th CCI Meeting to identify possible MNE participants to facilitate the identification of focused sectors and MSMEs who will participate in the business matching activity.

MSMEs are considered one the key drivers of economic growth across many regions of the global economy, including ASEAN. These firms account for 95 to 99 percent of all business establishments and are responsible for 51 to 97 percent of employment among AMS. In terms of GDP share, MSMEs account between 23 to 58 percent of any AMS economy. With the significant contribution of these firms on income and employment generation, CCI considers MSMEs as the backbone of the ASEAN economy.

The third action agenda is focused on the assessment on the establishment of an ASEAN Investment Tribunal.CCI has recognized the need to do the said assessment given the numerous investment agreements that ASEAN had entered into and the need to have consistency and predictability in the interpretation of ASEAN investment agreements.

Finally, the fourth action agenda is focused on an in-depth assessment of the business registration requirements among ASEAN in support of the investment facilitation goal of ACIA.

“Ease of doing business through facilitation of business registration in any AMS will significantly contribute in making the region a more attractive investment destination. An in-depth assessment of the business registration requirements of AMS will support and contribute to ACIA’s key objectives of increasing intra-ASEAN investments,” said Executive Director Dichosa.

Intra-ASEAN investments continue to significantly contribute to the investment inflows in ASEAN. In 2015, intra-ASEAN investments’ share to total investment inflows rose to 18.5% from 17% in 2014. Intra-ASEAN investment reached US$22.2 billion in 2015.