ASEAN focusing on non-tariff barrier removal

By The Business Times

Hng Kiang: More seamless customs procedures ahead 0909-aseanfocusingonnontariffberrierremoval

Companies can look forward to more seamless customs procedures as ASEAN member countries continue to work together towards greater economic integration, said Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang.

As part of efforts towards realising the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015, ASEAN countries have made progress with virtually all goods now moving throughout the region-tariff-free. The next priority will be removing non-tariff barriers, improving trade facilitation as well as harmonising standards so that businesses can run in a stable environment.

“ASEAN countries are working hard to put in place and harmonise ASEAN-wide trade facilitation initiatives,” said Mr Lim in his speech at the ASEAN Business Club (ABC) Forum on Monday. “These include a self-certification system, which will allow exporters to certify export documents on the own.”

Another initiative that will bring down costs for firms is the ASEAN Single Window, which could be the first regional initiative to link the single windows of all 10 ASEAN countries electronically, ensuring cheaper, simpler and faster customs clearance of goods.

A single window basically means that trade documents are standardised and need only be submitted at a single entry point.

With a market of some 600 million people, ASEAN is the seventh largest economy in the world at present and had the third largest GDP in Asia last year at US$2.3 trillion.

Mr Lim also highlighted that businesses and governments need to work together to foster positive change in the region, especially as ASEAN countries develop a post-2015 economic agenda. “Businesses play a critical role, in telling us where the barriers to trade lie, and where the bottlenecks in our regional and global value chains are,” he added.

In his opening remarks as ABC Forum chairman, Tony Fernandes, chief executive of Malaysia-based budget airline group AirAsia, stressed the need to transcend national and embrace regional. “It takes a lot of work to try and build this ASEAN brand. But if we don’t put that effort in, from the private industry, then we’ll miss out a massive, massive opportunity.” said Tony Fernandes.

Beyond the region, negotiations for other partnerships are also ongoing. For instance, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will link ASEAN and its six free trade agreement (FTA) partners – including China and India – by consolidating ASEAN’s existing FTAs and establishing simple and flexible trade rules for firms to operate in.

The forum, which is taking place at the Four Seasons hotel, continues on Tuesday.