The ASEAN Leaders welcomed the entry into force of the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) last week on the 20th ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

ACIA is a hybrid of revising and merging the ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) and Investment Guarantee Agreements (IGA) into a single comprehensive ASEAN investment agreement. Given the competitive global environment for foreign direct investment, ACIA was drafted with the aim of creating a freer and more open investment regime towards the achievement of ASEAN economic integration, based on international best practices. ACIA is envisioned to facilitate the transformation of ASEAN into an investment hub that would be able to compete effectively with other emerging economies.

Through this new agreement, ASEAN strongly manifests its commitment to establish an integrated investment area and demonstrates its firm resolve to create a stable and predictable business environment.  Building-upon the relevant elements of the precursor agreements, ACIA reaffirms the national treatment and most-favored-nation treatment obligations and provides for enhanced protection elements and incorporates new and forward-looking provisions.  Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, said, “This will definitely provide for investor confidence and support the notion for ASEAN to be not only an attractive investment hub but also becomes elected as an investment destination of choice.”

In the context of creating a free and open investment regime in ASEAN, the ACIA has adopted negative listing for its reservation, and provides for further progressive reduction/elimination of reservations and improvement of investment regimes. The ACIA Reservation Lists (also called the ACIA Schedule) has been endorsed by the ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) Council Ministers.

Aligned with the objective for ASEAN to be a globally competitive economic region, the ASEAN has likewise intensified its efforts and initiatives on investment facilitation and promotion.