ASEAN Economic Community Discussed
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The Economic Ministers of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), at
their recent Retreat held in Malaysia, discussed a range of issues impacting
on the region’s competitiveness, Asia’s ability to remain as favoured
destination for investors and, in particular, on the progress made towards the
establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
The Ministers noted that the implementation of AEC measures especially in trade
in goods have been very satisfactory with total compliance. From January 1,
2010, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand can import
and export almost all goods across their borders free of tariffs.
For these countries, the so-called ASEAN-6, almost 7,900 additional product
lines have been reduced to zero tariffs, bringing the product lines traded under
the common effective preferential tariffs for the ASEAN Free Trade Area (CEPT-AFTA)
to over 99% of the total. The commitment under the CEPT-AFTA is for tariffs
to be reduced to zero by 2010 for ASEAN-6, and by 2015 for the remaining four
countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The Ministers agreed to intensify efforts to implement other measures in the
AEC blueprint, which targets its establishment in 2015. There are specific challenges
which need to be addressed expeditiously to ensure the implementation of the
AEC is on track.
It was noted that there are gaps in the implementation of some commitments.
These, it was said, have affected the free movement of goods, services and investments
in the region. Some of the specific areas that were highlighted are eliminating
non tariff barriers, increasing efficiency of customs clearance, harmonizing
standards and removing duplication of testing and certification procedures within
YB Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed, Malaysia’s Minister of International
Trade and Industry, reiterated the need for ASEAN member states to comply and
implement their commitments on a timely basis. The deeper integration of the
region will lead to stronger inter-industrial linkages within the production
chain in the region. This will also enable investors to source their inputs
from within the region and contribute to the expansion in intra-ASEAN trade.
He also voiced his concerns over ASEAN member states adopting new trade measures
which are deemed to be trade restrictive by the private sector. He proposed
a more structural mechanism for Ministers to consult and discuss concerns related
to non tariff barriers. The Ministers agreed they should revisit this in future
meetings as part of the trade policy review.
Mustapa Mohamed also discussed the need for ASEAN member states to adopt a
“self-certification scheme” for preferential trade under the various
FTAs entered into by ASEAN. Under this scheme, exporters would no longer need
to have endorsements from government authorities. The implementation of this
scheme would contribute to lowering business costs and speed up the movement
of goods within the region and with counterparties to the respective FTAs.
The meeting was also briefed on the specific issues that need to be resolved
to conclude the ASEAN-India agreement on services and ASEAN-India agreement
on investment. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to conclude the two
agreements before the next ASEAN summit in October 2010.