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Regulation: Navigating fragmented Asia

Broad agreements on regulatory harmony would help pan-Asian development and safeguard against potential market shocks.

Asia’s regulatory regimes have always been widely different to each other, and that state of affairs looks as if it is persisting after the current crisis, to the possible detriment of the region as a whole. While there is a positive aspect to the region’s financial market supervisors taking action on a range of issues without waiting for the glacial-by-comparison deliberations in the west, it does mean more hard work for investors in trying to make sense of the chaos.

Take the issue of investment services and, in particular, regulation of exchanges. Talking about Europe as a single entity for financial markets purposes has fallen out of favour given the diverging fortunes of its less and more solvent countries, but the region does at least adhere to a single body of investment services legislation in the form of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive.

In Asia the situation is quite different, with the lack of an overarching set of regulations for the region’s equity exchanges leading to a fragmented market in which the variety of country-specific regulations on such issues as tax and investor identification prevents the development of certain trading strategies. Each country’s regulator sets the rules as it sees fit, and the corresponding exchange grows strong in some products and weak in others accordingly.

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