Introduction to tax treaties across Asia In this issue of Asia Briefing Magazine, we see the different types of trade and tax treaties that exist between Asian nations. These include bilateral investment agreements, double taxation treaties and free trade agreements that have a direct impact on companies operating in Asia. The Framework Agreement was signed by eleven Heads of Government on 4 November 2002 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. : Hassanal Bolkiah (Sultan of Brunei Darussalam), Hun Sen (Prime Minister of Cambodia), Megawati Soekarnoputri (President of Indonesia), Bounnhang Vorachith (Prime Minister of Laos), Mahathir ben Mohamad (Prime Minister of Malaysia), Than Shwe (Prime Minister of Burma), Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (President of the Philippines), Goh Chok Tong (Prime Minister of Singapore), Thaksin Shinawatra (Prime Minister of Thailand), Phan Văn Khải (Prime Minister of Vietnam), Zhu Rongji (P) Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State Council of the People`s Republic of China).   China`s free trade agreements include Hong Kong and Macau, with Hong Kong`s version known as the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and which we have long reported on in regular updates regarding its benefits, here at China Briefing. The CEPA agreement between China and Hong Kong offers many advantages to foreign investors who set up local businesses in Hong Kong, which reduce (after a waiting period) taxes on sources and dividends to funds transferred from the mainland to the region. Macau offers similar advantages, especially in the service sector and the financial sector – extremely useful given Macau`s emergence as an important tourist and casino destination. Singapore, with its wealth in financial and other services, has also concluded a free trade agreement with China. This agreement, signed in 2009, focuses on the service sector, in addition to the individual benefits of income tax.
Singapore intends to increase its population by an additional 2 million people and many of them are expected to be affluent Chinese nationals from the mainland. Among the benefits of companies is the reduction of withholding taxes for a large number of services, including eligible fees. This is one of the reasons why Singapore is becoming a regional investment hub in China and Asia and is receiving more and more Chinese foreign investment that is going in the opposite direction – to Singapore and for reinvestments throughout Asia. As foreign investors automatically qualify as Singaporean companies when setting up a subsidiary, they can also access Singapore`s impressive international tax treaty, including many other free trade agreements and more than 80 bilateral double taxation treaties. A little further down the pipeline are possible agreements with India, South Korea and a China-Japan-Korea agreement. China already concluded a free trade agreement with New Zealand in 2009, which will be phased in over ten years for the products it covers. The free trade agreement will remove all tariffs on Chinese exports to New Zealand by 2016 and remove 96% of tariffs on New Zealand exports to China by 2019. The agreement will also facilitate mutual investment and trade in services. The deal has been very beneficial for Kiwi companies like Fonterra. The New Zealand fishing industry has also benefited.
This agreement was signed in 2002 and entered into force three years ago. The ASEAN-China Free Trade Area is the world`s largest free trade area in terms of population and, after the European Union and NAFTA, the third largest in terms of nominal GDP. . . .