In a move toward trade liberalisation, six members of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will remove tariffs for all merchandises moving across their borders on January 1, 2010.
In a statement released on November 14, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), says the move is a demonstration of how ASEAN is moving on track towards tariff liberalisation despite the global struggle against a rising tide of protectionism.
These six older ASEAN Member States -- Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand -- have been following the liberalisation efforts since the introduction of ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in 1992.
On the trade facilitation front, ASEAN is also exerting maximum efforts in developing an ASEAN Trade Repository, which will be a dynamic inventory and a single reference point, providing the most up-to-date information on all tariff and non-tariff measures applied on goods entering, exiting and transiting a country.
To monitor the implementation of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, the ASEAN Trade Facilitation Joint Consultative Committee (ATF-JCC) has been endorsed. This committee comprises officials in the areas of Trade, Customs, Standards and Conformance, Transport and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. It intends to undertake consultations with the private sector at the operational level to obtain their feedback on trade facilitation initiatives and explore public-private sector partnership.
The region's combined GDP was US$ 1,504 billion in 2008, a level almost double that of the 2003 level of US$ 718 billion. ASEAN trade was on a similar upward trend: US$ 1,710 billion in 2008 compared to US$ 824 billion in 2003. Foreign direct investment into ASEAN grew from US$ 24 billion in 2003 to US$ 60 billion in 2008.
ASEAN's systematic forward movement towards tariff liberalisation is an indication of how a regional grouping addresses the concerns of rising protectionism which resonates at various fora of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), that took place in Singapore November 13 to 15.