Rajah & Tann Regional Round-Up

your snapshot of key legal developments in Asia

Issue 1 - Jan/Feb/Mar 2021


ASEAN Capital Markets Forum Launches Five-Year Action Plan

The ASEAN Capital Markets Forum ("ACMF") has endorsed the ACMF Action Plan 2021-2025 ("Action Plan") during its 34th ACMF Chairs Meeting, as stated in a media release of 15 March 2021. The Action Plan builds on ACMF Action Plan 2016 – 2020, and was developed with feedback from capital market participants and other stakeholders to ensure that the Action Plan is inclusive and relevant, particularly amid the new normal.

The Action Plan sets out three strategic objectives:

  1. Fostering growth and recovery with sustainability;
  2. Promoting and sustaining inclusiveness; and
  3. Strengthening and maintaining orderliness and resilience.

The five key priorities that support the strategic objectives are: (i) driving higher levels of transparency and disclosure; (ii) continuing with regulatory harmonisation; (iii) intensifying capacity building; (iv) amplifying communication and awareness building; and (v) strengthening co-operation and co-ordination.


The ACMF discussed the progress of the six short-to-medium term focus areas identified in the Roadmap for ASEAN Sustainable Capital Markets. Among other things, the ACMF discussed sustainable finance and the development of sustainable finance, ACMF emphasised the importance of capacity building. In this regard:


  • The ACMF welcomed continued collaboration with the ASEAN Working Committee – Capital Market Development (WC-CMD) on transition standards, sustainability-linked bond standards and sustainability disclosures. 

  • The ACMF commended progress made on the ASEAN Sustainable Finance Taxonomy.

  • The meeting noted continuing traction of ACMF’s sustainable finance initiatives earlier launched, namely the ASEAN Green Bond Standards, ASEAN Social Bond Standards and ASEAN Sustainability Bond Standards. Since 2017 until the end of 2020, a total of US$8.35 billion bonds labelled under these ASEAN standards have been issued.

The ACMF also discussed other initiatives including the cross-border offering of ASEAN Collective Investment Schemes (ASEAN CIS) and the endorsement of the 2021 ASEAN Corporate Governance Scorecard Assessment Implementation Plan, which is targeted to commence in early Q3 2021.

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Sustainability Financing: Taxonomy Proposed for Singapore-based Financial Institutions to Identify "Green" Activities

Increasing interest in green or sustainable finance calls for a recognisable framework on what green or sustainable finance is, which will help financial market participants and their stakeholders compare and assess green or sustainable products and services based on a common understanding.

Against this background, the Green Finance Industry Taskforce ("GFIT") has been convened by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to accelerate the development of green finance through four key initiatives: (i) develop a taxonomy; (ii) enhance environmental risk management practices of financial institutions ("FIs"); (iii) improve disclosures; and (iv) foster green finance solutions.

Under the first focus area, GFIT conducted a public consultation to seek feedback on the appropriate taxonomy, as a classification tool, to help Singapore-based FIs identify economic activities that are considered "green" or are transitioning into "greener" activities in sustainability financing. The proposals were set out in the GFIT consultation paper titled "Identifying a Green Taxonomy and Relevant Standards for Singapore and ASEAN" ("GFIT Taxonomy Consultation Paper") made available on the website of The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS). The consultation closed on 11 March 2021.

Taxonomies for sustainable finance are meant to support an overarching set of environmental goals, and determine whether the activities are consistent with these environmental goals with reference to a threshold or tolerance. By evaluating and classifying activities as "green", based on tolerance thresholds, a taxonomy would:

  1. Establish clear criteria for determining activities which are environmentally sustainable;
  2. Remove uncertainty as to whether certain activities are environmentally sustainable;
  3. Bring clarity to discussions around green and sustainable products; and
  4. Alleviate concerns on greenwashing (a process of creating a false or misleading impression that a product is environmentally sustainable).

It is hoped that a taxonomy would provide more certainty and confidence to the market on the classification of green products and services and therefore encourage more capital flows to support sustainable investments.

In the GFIT Taxonomy Consultation Paper, GFIT sought comments on:

  1. Whether there is a need for Singapore to have its own taxonomy;

  2. The four environmental objectives for the taxonomy, namely: (i) climate change mitigation; (ii) climate change adaptation; (iii) protection of biodiversity; and (iv) promotion of resource resilience;

  3. The selection of the economic sectors that are covered by the taxonomy;

  4. The proposed "traffic light" classification system for activities within the selected economic sectors by grouping them into three classifications, namely, "green" for activities that are clearly aligned with the environmental objectives of the taxonomy, or undertaking a transition consistent with emissions-reduction pathways aligned with meeting the environmental objectives; "yellow" for activities with a quantifiable and time-bound pathway towards either green or significant de-carbonisation that will contribute to the objectives of the taxonomy; and "red" for activities that are inconsistent with the environmental objectives of the taxonomy; and

  5. The treatment of transition activities in the taxonomy.

For more information, click here to read our Legal Update.

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Data Management for Businesses: Launch of ASEAN Data Management Framework and Model Clauses on Data Transfer

Businesses in the region are finding themselves increasingly involved in digital networks and platforms as part of the commercial process. This includes payment applications, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive computing, all of which are heavily reliant on data sharing. Issues of digital data governance have thus come to the forefront as businesses seek to balance digital initiatives and data protection.

To assist businesses on this front, the ASEAN Digital Ministers' Meeting has, on 22 January 2021, approved the ASEAN Data Management Framework ("DMF") and Model Contractual Clauses for Cross Border Data Flows ("MCCs"). These initiatives were developed by the Working Group on Digital Data Governance chaired by Singapore.

  1. The DMF provides a step-by-step guide for businesses to put in place a data management system, which includes data governance structures and safeguards.

  2. The MCCs are template contractual terms that may be included in agreements between businesses transferring personal data to each other across borders.

Businesses developing their digital operations should be aware of the need to develop an adequate system to handle all their data, and should pay close attention to the guidance provided by the DMF in this regard. Parties transferring personal data across borders should be aware of the data protection requirements they must comply with when conducting such transfers, and consider incorporating the MCCs and adapting them accordingly.

For more information, click here to read our Legal Update.

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Multimodal Transport Act: Standardising Framework for Multimodal Transport Operators throughout ASEAN

On 5 January 2021, the Multimodal Transport Bill ("Bill") was passed by the Parliament of Singapore. The Multimodal Modal Transport Act 2021 ("Act") was assented to by the President on 5 February 2021 and will come into operation on a date that the Minister appoints. The Act facilitates Singapore's anticipated ratification of the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Multimodal Transport ("Agreement"), which should take place later this year.

By way of background, the Agreement was signed by Singapore on 17 November 2005, and will provide a single, unified framework for the multimodal transport of goods within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ("ASEAN") once it has been ratified by all ASEAN member countries. This will facilitate market access for Singapore logistics operators to operate in other ASEAN member countries under a set of regionally aligned standards.

The Act will apply to the carriage of goods via more than one transport mode, whether through air, land, or sea. These goods are carried by a multimodal transport operator registered with the Competent National Body ("CNB") established in each ASEAN member state, under a single multimodal transport contract where the origin or destination of the goods is in an ASEAN member country.

The Act covers five key areas:

  1. Registration with the Singapore CNB;
  2. Issuance of multimodal transport documents ("MTDs");
  3. Liabilities of multimodal transport operators (MTOs);
  4. Duties and liabilities of consignors; and
  5. Miscellaneous matters.

Given the new responsibilities and liabilities involved, we urge all multimodal transport operators, consignors, and consignees to review the new provisions carefully, including the time bar and the legal significance of MTDs, among other things.

For more information, click here to read our Legal Update.

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Singapore High Court Issues Significant Judgment on Freezing Injunctions in Cross-Border Insolvency and Asset Recovery Claim

In Allenger, Shiona (Trustee-in-bankruptcy of the Estate of Pelletier, Richard Paul Joseph) v Pelletier, Olga and another [2020] SGHC 279, Rajah and Tann Singapore's Fraud, Asset Recovery and Investigations team led by Partners Danny Ong and Yam Wern-Jhien, and assisted by Bethel Chan and Chen Lixin, prevailed in a significant decision examining principles governing the grant of freezing injunctions against foreign defendants in the context of a cross-border insolvency and asset recovery claim. The Court had to consider its subject-matter jurisdiction over a claim founded in Cayman bankruptcy law, as well as its in personam jurisdiction over the defendants.

The team successfully argued that the Singapore High Court has subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate claims based on foreign avoidance laws. The High Court held that the Singapore courts do not require enabling legislation in order to have jurisdiction in a specific subject-matter, and that the mere fact that the cause of action here arose under a foreign insolvency legislation (Cayman Bankruptcy Law) was not a bar to its being adjudicated in Singapore.

The Court also accepted the team's submission that the foreign defendants had submitted to the Singapore courts' jurisdiction by failing to promptly raise a jurisdictional challenge and taking various steps in the proceedings that were inconsistent with an intention to challenge the Singapore court's jurisdiction. As a result, the Court found that it had in personam jurisdiction over the defendants.

For more information, click here to read our Legal Update.

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Please note that whilst the information in this Update is correct to the best of our knowledge and belief at the time of writing, it is only intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and should not be treated as a substitute for specific professional advice.


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