Editor’s Choice: 13 November 2017

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  • Over 20,000 unsold residential units in 1H2017
  • Ministers reach agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)
  • ASEAN signs free trade, investment pacts with Hong Kong
  • Alibaba smashes Singles’ Day record with US$25.3b in online sales
  • China lifts foreign ownership limits on financial firms
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Completed Unsold Residential Units Rise to Over 20,000

Unsold completed residential units rose by 40 per cent to 20,807 units in the first half of 2017 (1H17) compared to the same period last year. Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Lee Chee Leong said, “Condominiums and apartments costing over RM500,000 dominate the overhang homes in Malaysia. He added that locations and pricing of residential units also contributed to the overhang. (Bernama)

Ministers reach agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)

Ministers of the 11 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries have reached an agreement on the way forward to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The 11 members agreed on the text of the Agreement, renamed as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Following the withdrawal of the US from the TPPA deal, the remaining countries have decided the way forward to implement the Agreement is by suspending a limited number of provisions, while maintaining the high standard and comprehensive nature of the Agreement. Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed, Minister of International Trade and Industry confirmed that among the provisions agreed for suspension that are of interest to Malaysia include biologics, patent term adjustment and copyrights. The signing of CPTPP will be decided by all Parties once all the technical work and outstanding issues are finalised. (MITI)

ASEAN signs free trade, investment pacts with Hong Kong

ASEAN ministers inked free trade and investment pacts with Hong Kong on Sunday on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Manila. The agreements are expected to come into effect by January 2019, and stimulate economic development for both parties. The trade agreement – a much-anticipated culmination of nearly three years’ worth of negotiations – is aimed at eliminating or reducing tariffs, liberalising trade and services, and establishing rules to promote confidence in trade. The investment agreement will cover the protection, promotion and facilitation of investment. The deals are expected to benefit Hong Kong after the city was not included in a free trade agreement (FTA) between ASEAN and China in 2010. ASEAN ministers noted the growing economic relations between ASEAN and Hong Kong – Hong Kong was ASEAN’s sixth largest trading partner in 2016, while ASEAN as a bloc was Hong Kong’s second largest trading partner. (CNA)

Alibaba smashes Singles’ Day record as online shopping festival goes global

China easily retained its status as the king of retail e-commerce when the Alibaba Group smashed its 24-hour Singles’ Day sales tally from last year, notching up total takings of 168 billion yuan (US$25.3 billion). The total gross merchandise volume (GMV) – or the amount of sales transacted on the tech giant’s e-commerce platforms – was nearly four times the combined online sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US. The event, dubbed the Double Eleven or 11.11, saw Alibaba taking a little over 13 hours to pass its total takings of US$18.1 billion from Singles’ Day in 2016. “Singles’ Day is Olympic Games for Chinese merchants. Sales of 157 merchants exceed 100 million yuan; 17 merchants exceed 500 million; 5 merchants exceed 1 billion yuan.” (SCMP)

China lifts foreign ownership limits on financial firms

China will raise foreign ownership limits in domestic financial firms, a long-anticipated step that grants greater access to overseas investors into the Asian giant’s financial services market. The move, announced by vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao, comes a day after U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated calls for better access to Chinese markets in meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The changes include raising the limit on foreign ownership in joint-venture firms involved in the futures, securities and funds markets to 51 percent from the current 49 percent. They will take effect immediately following the drafting of specific related rules, Zhu told a news conference.

The foreign business community welcomed the news but urged caution until it was clear how rules would be implemented. “Financial services further opening definitely has been high on our list,” said Ken Jarrett, President of American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. A JPMorgan spokesperson said the firm “welcomes any decision made by the Chinese government that looks to liberalize its financial sector further.” The plan to ease ownership restrictions comes as Beijing faces mounting pressure from Western governments and business lobbies to remove investment barriers and onerous regulations that restrict overseas companies’ operations in its markets. (Japan Today)

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