1. China to be more open to foreign investment, speed up Beijing-led trade bloc and strengthen its military
2. Malaysia’s Total Trade Surges to RM156.01 Billion in January 2018
3. The Economist Events Brings Global Illicit Trade Summit to Asia
4. ASEAN Moves Towards Seamless Economic Activity and Growing Opportunities
5. Saudi Arabia Issues Tourist Visas for First Time for Lone Women
6. Samsung Tops Smartphone Market in Emerging Southeast Asia

China to be more open to foreign investment, speed up Beijing-led trade bloc and strengthen its military
The annual session of the National People’s Congress opened on Monday amid a major shift in Chinese politics. Premier Li Keqiang delivered his work report at the opening ceremony. The annual budget was also released. Beijing has announced an increase in defence spending of 8.1 per cent this year. It will also lower its fiscal deficit target to 2.6 per cent of GDP for 2018, down 0.4 percentage points compared with last year. China’s GDP target in 2018 is likely to be about 6.5 per cent this year, the same as in 2017. It is the first session of the legislative body after the new Communist Party leadership was installed at its 19th congress in October. It is also China’s first big political event after it became clear that President Xi Jinping intends to stay in power beyond his second five-year term, with the party proposing the constitution be changed to remove the limit.

Malaysia’s Total Trade Surges to RM156.01 Billion in January 2018
Malaysia’s total trade in January 2018 surged by 14.9 per cent to RM156.01 billion compared with the corresponding month of last year. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry said an expansion in trade was seen with ASEAN, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the European Union (EU), China, India, Taiwan and South Korea. “During the period, exports posted a stronger year-on-year growth compared to imports, registering a double-digit growth of 17.9 per cent to RM82.86 billion.” “This was the highest export value ever recorded for the month of January, surpassing RM70.27 billion registered in January 2017,” it said.

The Economist Events Brings Global Illicit Trade Summit to Asia
Sometimes referred to as the shadow economy or the underground economy, illicit trade represents the other side of globalisation where public and private sectors as well as law enforcement agencies around the world fully recognise the threat of the illicit activities yet struggle to stem the spread of it. The shadow economy continues to grow and show no signs of slowing. How can governments and companies curb illicit trade that thrives on vulnerabilities in policies and governance? Advancing the conversation that began last year in Brussels, The Economist Events will host the second Global Illicit Trade Summit on 22 March in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Themed ‘Out of the Shadows’, the summit will bring together stakeholders from governments, the private sector, international organisations, law enforcement agencies and civil society for a series of action-driven dialogues about combatting illicit trade.

ASEAN Moves Towards Seamless Economic Activity and Growing Opportunities
The ASEAN Economic Ministers met in Singapore last week at the 24th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Retreat and Related Meetings. All ten ASEAN Economic Ministers endorsed the economic priorities identified for Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship this year. These priorities seek to deepen regional connectivity to position ASEAN for increasingly seamless economic activity and growing opportunities through advancing the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025, progressing long-standing initiatives, and positioning ASEAN for its next phase of growth. In particular, the priorities are designed to promote innovation and e-Commerce, improve trade facilitation, deepen services and investment integration, cultivate a conducive regulatory environment, and progress ASEAN’s external relations. Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry, Lim Hng Kiang, as Chairperson of the ASEAN Economic Ministers in 2018, said that “the priorities Singapore intends to pursue through its ASEAN chairmanship in 2018 would bring about tangible benefits to ASEAN’s businesses and populations”.

Saudi Arabia Issues Tourist Visas for First Time for Lone Women
Saudi Arabia will, for the first time, issue a 30-day single-entry tourist visa for women aged below 25 years without a male chaperon. This would be marking a massive shift from 2006 to 2010 when the Kingdom largely had shut down the country to leisure travellers. The plan is to issue new tourist visas as was revealed in a fresh report prior to the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2018 that will be held at the Dubai World Trade Centre in April. Saudi Arabia flaunts of some of the world’s most spiritual sites comprising the Masjid-al-Haram in Mecca and Medina’s Masjid an-Nabawi that is the burial site of prophet Muhammad. The country plans to come up with a new tourist hotspot twice the size of Wales. The country is getting ready to welcome at least 30 million tourists annually by the year 2030. In order to meet this objective, the first tourism visas would be issued to tourists from 1 April 2018 alongside corporate travellers. Reforms and investment are set to drive the tourism and hospitality sector over the following five years, with an expectant growth of 13.5 per cent year-on-year by 2022.

Samsung Tops Smartphone Market in Emerging Southeast Asia
Samsung retained the top spot in smartphone shipments to emerging Southeast Asian markets in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Samsung’s shipment volume rose 25.8 per cent to 29.3 million units in 2017, followed by OPPO (up 29.3 per cent to 17.2 million), Vivo (118.2 per cent higher to 7.2 million) and Huawei (up 3.8 per cent to 5.4 million). Apple, in fifth place, was the only smartphone manufacturer in the top five spot that recorded a decline in shipment volume, in slipping 2.2 per cent to 4.5 million units from 4.6 million units in 2016.