UK seeks ASEAN infra financing leadership

The UK's HM Treasury and the Monetary Authority of Singapore have vowed to work hard at promoting the development of private infrastructure financing in ASEAN.

At the inaugural Singapore-UK Financial Dialogue forum held in Singapore on Wednesday, Singaporean and British officials agreed to collaborate in promoting greater private financing of infrastructure development in Southeast Asia, while Singapore welcomed the launch of private lobbying entity TheCityUK’s ASEAN Market Advisory group.

The Financial Dialogue forum was initiated by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Tharman Shanmugaratnam, in February last year with a mission to tighten cooperation on issues pertaining to financial regulatory reforms, financial market developments, infrastructure financing and Islamic financing, insurance and asset management. 

The UK’s HM Treasury director general (financial services), Charles Roxburgh, and MAS’s deputy managing director, Jacqueline Loh, discussed the financial integration of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region and tackling financial crime, a rising concern in the region with increasingly frequent fraud reports marring APAC countries' news headlines.

“Singapore welcomed UK support for financial integration in ASEAN, particularly in capital market development. Both sides recognized the importance of ASEAN and the opportunities for trade and investment for the region and beyond,” noted a joint statement issued yesterday and posted on MAS’s website.

The event saw the official launch by London-based CityUK, an independent UK financial industry cross-sector lobbying group, of its ASEAN advisory unit. MAS welcomed this, stating it would “further deepen trade and investment ties between the UK and SE Asia, including Singapore”.

“The ASEAN countries are among the fastest-rising of the emerging markets. They offer enormous potential for UK-based firms right across the financial and related professional service industry. As a region, ASEAN’s aggregate GDP is already around the same as the UK – around $2.5 trillion – and by 2050, economic growth predictions by McKinsey suggest it will become the world’s fourth-largest economy,” said Chris Cummings, chief executive of TheCityUK.

“This, alongside the ASEAN Economic Community’s stated goal to achieve economic integration across all 10 member states by the end of 2015, underscores why now is an opportune time for the industry to forge stronger links with the region, help to shape the strategic policy priorities for trade and investment and establish a productive, mutually beneficial business dialogue. It is also essential for London to work closely with international growth markets to ensure it retains its position as a leading international financial centre,” he added.

The advisory group operates from London and discussions between senior staff and all ten ASEAN members are to be kick-started with the identification of each country’s core priorities in regard to financial integration challenges.

A recent example of the lobbying group’s activities in Asia is the work led by its International Experts Consultation Group, which has been established to assist Chinese policymakers in their task of developing Free Trade Zones. The research work carried out by the team of industry representatives has resulted in 11 reports published over the last six months. Bryan Cress, TheCityUK’s head of Asia Pacific, is confident they will significantly influence China’s policy decisions in the coming year.