In this first of two articles looking at cross-border transaction development in Asia Pacific, Euromonitor International analyses the key driving factors in economy growth, developing digital infrastructure, as well as growing travel, remittance, e-commerce and trading.
In February 2023, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) declared a directive permitting foreign tourists to use Unified Payment Interface (UPI) QR payment enabled by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and other Indian financial institutions.
In March 2023, Bank for International Settlements (BIS), Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Bank Negara Malaysia (MAS) announced successful tests of Project Nexus, on cross-border instant transfer among the EU, Singapore and Malaysia. BIS will work with central banks in Southeast Asia for the next phase, supporting G20 initiatives.
In addition, one week after Mastercard announced on 21 June 2023 a partnership with Ant Group to enable linkage of Mastercard cards to AliPay, Ant Group and Tencent Holdings disclosed a similar deal with Visa, to benefit international travellers visiting China.
Growing cross-border demand from travel, remittance, e-commerce and trading
Asia Pacific is projected to maintain minimum 4% real GDP growth from 2023 to 2028 (fastest among all regions globally), supported by the strong economic recovery of powerhouses such as India, Southeast Asia and China. Relatively low labour costs, rich natural resources and large supply of technology graduates have maintained demand for Asian products, such as electronics, appliances, automotives, globally.
From 2000s to 2020s, Asian service companies have also made significant improvement, gradually moving to leading positions in digital financial services, retail e-commerce and IT outsourcing (represented by leaders such as Alibaba, SEA Group and Infosys).
Asian central banks have been driving financial inclusion in the region, releasing licenses for digital banks, digital wallets
Source: Euromonitor International
Futhermore, initiatives (such as lower tax trading) within economy associations such as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have further boosted regional trading and migration. Furthermore, the ongoing trade war between US and China is believed to be driving the industry supply chain relocation (electronics and appliances production moving to Southeast Asia and India) and force upgrades (surging investment in microelectronics and aircraft manufacturing in China). Moreover, moving out of the pandemic, the recovery of travel, remittance, e-commerce and trading to meet those business and personal demands is poised to drive cross-border payments and transfers.
Asia Pacific travel growth is projected to achieve above 15% CAGR in value sales of outbound departures from 2023-2028, sustained by recovering travel demand, especially to China, the US, and Thailand. One of the critical factors is the relaxing of travel restrictions by China in Q1 2023, enabling overseas Chinese to easily reunite family members and conduct face-to-face meetings with business partners.
If international travellers can use payment methods issued from their country of origin at travel destinations, they can save valuable time in researching, applying and using local payment tools. For travellers’ financial institutions in their home country, overseas spend is also critical for overall customer experience, influencing their choices in the local market. For example, eligible consumers prefer global cards, such as Visa and Mastercard, for international travel, due to their high acceptance rates.
Similarly, due to the easing of travel restrictions, one key reason for remittance recovery is the increasing migration of foreign talents and recruitment of foreign construction workers and domestic helpers, especially in developed markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong. As such, monthly instant cross-border transfer with low value (less than USD1,000) is in demand compared with batched payments taking more than several hours.
Cross-border retail e-commerce:
Asian consumers continue to make overseas purchases from global/regional e-commerce portals, such as Amazon, Rakuten and Alibaba. Their own logistics arms or logistics partners for cross-border shipping also help to reduce the pain points to purchase. Lower prices and greater variety of designs remain as some of the key factors supporting cross-border e-commerce and in turn, payments.
In addition to corporates conducting international trading, a growing number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have been expanding overseas, selling in/to overseas markets or purchasing overseas supplies. In Singapore alone, Enterprise Singapore supported 2,000 enterprises for overseas expansion in 2022, a 25% increase from 2021. Established corporates rely on banks to assist them in managing large value cross-border transactions. In contrast, underserved SMEs have been looking for affordable, fast and secure payments, generating opportunities for digital cross-border finance. For example, it was reported that ANEXT Bank (a Singapore SME digital bank) recorded an average of 20% month-on-month growth of cross-border transactions in its first year of operation.
This article summarises the driving factors for cross-border payment, while the next article analyses the latest developments in Asia Pacific supporting demand, highlighting contactless, QR payment and instant transfer.
Read our relevant strategy briefing in Travel: Quarterly Statement Q2 2023, for a travel update and macroeconomic update.