ASEAN Business Club Delegation to Malaysia & the Launch of Lifting-The-Barriers Reports 2014

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KUALA LUMPUR, 1 December – In conjunction with the ASEAN Business Club (ABC) Delegation’s visit to Malaysia, the ABC in partnership with the CIMB ASEAN Research Institute (CARI) launched the second set of Lifting-The-Barriers (LTB) Reports today – another set of seven white papers outlining bottlenecks and barriers, coupled with workable solutions for an integrated ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

The targeted sectors this year were Legal & Tax, championed by ZICOlaw and EY, Automotive & Manufacturing championed by Jardine Cycle & Carriage and AAPICO, Financial Services & Capital Markets, headed by CIMB and DBS, Minerals, Oil & Gas by SapuraKencana and Ilthabi Rekatama, Food & Beverages Industry spearheaded by ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) and Food Industry Asia (FIA), and Retail, championed by Lippo Group and Integrated Microelectronics, Inc. (IMI). Together with CARI, independent research partners Frost & Sullivan, AT Kearney, ZICOlaw, EY, Bain & Company, Accenture and AFBA spearheaded the research for the reports.

The reports recognise the potential benefits the AEC would bring but real sectoral challenges remain and are not likely to be fully overcome before the AEC 2015 deadline. In essence, the reports identified barriers such as economic nationalism, human capital constraints, regulatory congestion, and underdeveloped infrastructure as some of the main obstacles facing integration. The reports however also provided broad- based recommendations where these barriers could be overcome.

Datuk Dr. Rebecca Santa Maria, Secretary General of Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia who officiated the launch ceremony stressed the importance of facilitating businesses in the region in order to further accelerate ASEAN integration efforts.

“It is important to focus on lifting the barriers. Otherwise, all our market access efforts would be futile, and economic integration, illusive,” said Datuk Dr. Rebecca Sta. Maria.

Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid, Chairman of CIMB ASEAN Research Institute provided a general overview of the LTB Reports. The reports echoed the notion that specialised industry input is critical in pursuing ASEAN economic integration.

“The LTB reports are a gap analysis, but one which offers specific proposals on how to fill the gaps. As such they are a positive contribution to making the AEC a more meaningful economic reality. We will continue, through formal and informal means, to bring the findings and recommendations to the attention of policy decision-makers, top to bottom,” said Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid.

The reports were also recently cited by the Malaysian Prime Minister YAB Datuk Sri Najib Razak as a useful private sector input which could be used by Malaysia, as the Chair of ASEAN 2015, to take stock on where and how to fill gaps between aspirations and reality.

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Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of ASEAN Business Club Forum 2014 urged the ASEAN business community to embrace the AEC and prepare adequately to maximise the potential presented by the AEC.

“Businesses have a responsibility to make the AEC happen. There is no need to wait for a cue from governments. But mindsets must change: both businesses and governments have to transcend the national; embrace the regional. AirAsia did it. Everyone can too,” he said.

Dato’ Sri Nazir Razak, Chairman of CIMB Group and Co-Chair of ABC Malaysia stressed the need for Malaysia to capitalise on its upcoming chairmanship of ASEAN in 2015 to tie up any further loose ends before the establishment of the AEC.

“There are many challenges faced by ASEAN home grown multi-nationals and SMEs in anticipation of the impending formation of AEC. We hope that the recommendations highlighted in the two sets of LTB reports would be considered by the policy makers to produce effective policy prescription necessary for a single market and production base of ASEAN. 2015 is a critical year for ASEAN and I hope Malaysia’s chairmanship would see that final push towards that direction,” said Dato’ Sri Nazir Razak.

As an ongoing effort to engage with the public sector, the launch of the LTB reports was held in conjunction with ABC’s country visit to Malaysia. During this visit, ABC delegates had an opportunity to listen to Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia at a special networking luncheon hosted by CIMB Group. She shared on what the business community can expect from the impending financial integration for Malaysia and ASEAN. Another speaker, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, former minister of international trade and industry and currently Chairman of AirAsia X, gave her views on AEC and globalisation. The ABC delegates also had a dialogue with two ministers from Prime Minister’s Department, YB Senator Dato’ Sri Abdul Wahid Omar and YB Senator Dato’ Sri Idris Jala. The visit concluded with a special meet-and-greet session with Malaysian Prime Minister YAB. Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Abdul Razak later in the evening.

AEC Blueprint 2025 Analysis (Volume 1 Paper 8)

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Highlight of this paper:

  • ASEAN needs to work harder in promoting competition policy and law since the objectives outlined in the AEC Blueprint 2015 were not all achieved. In the following period of 2016-2025, more work needs to be done in promoting fair competition in terms of completion of the unimplemented measures, comprehensive study and analysis of the effectiveness of the current policies, closer collaboration with the more advanced economic regions, and enhanced dialogue with the relevant sectors and stakeholders.

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Highlight of this paper:

  • Conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations with the economic partners is key to improving ASEAN’s position in the global value chains. The AEC Blueprint 2025 has outlined measures to enhance trade facilitation and harmonise with international standards to ensure compliance with the global market. Nonetheless, more specific actions may need to be defined for implementation to guide ASEAN’s effort to increase its participation in the global production chains.

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Highlight of this paper:

  • The AEC 2025 Blueprint does little to expand on the objectives set forth in the AEC 2015 Blueprint in regards to the movement of skilled labor. Crucial skill gaps around ASEAN which threaten to derail the AEC ambition need to be met with proactive action; action which is lacking significantly in ASEAN’s current ambitions for skilled labor.

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Highlight of this paper:

  • Liberalisation efforts surrounding the regions banking, insurance, and other financial instrument markets will need to keep up with burgeoning growth in the region; the AEC Blueprint 2025 hopes to continue capitalising upon the success of previous policies.

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Highlight of this paper:

  • The AEC Blueprint Analysis series is a publication which seeks to provide insight into the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint (AEC) 2025. The publication will seek to do so by adopting a holistic approach to its analysis; creating context by examining past achievements, defining present challenges, and finally, discussing future plans. The series will pay special attention to strategic measures outlined within the AEC’s new blueprint, shining a light into the viability surrounding regional economic integration under the AEC.

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Highlight of this paper:

  • The AFAS helped to pave the way for commitments towards liberalising the trade in services. However, not all of these commitments have translated to concrete policy change, and with the introduction of ATISA, will the AEC Blueprint 2025 be able to right ASEAN’s path?

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Highlight of this paper:

  • With the removal of tariff barriers defining a decade of success in liberalising the free flow of goods, the AEC Blueprint 2025 hopes to capitalise on past achievements whilst introducing new initiatives.

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Highlight of this paper:

  • A brief overview discussing the methodology and potential limitations surrounding the series.

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