ABC presents white papers on tackling trade barriers

By The Borneo Post
JAKARTA: The Asean Business Club (ABC) launched the Lifting-The-Barriers (LTB) Reports yesterday, a white paper outlining possible solutions to critical bottlenecks and barriers hindering free trade in the region, such as economic nationalism, labour constraints, regulatory congestion and underdeveloped infrastructure.

The LTB reports cover six priority sectors, namely aviation, connectivity, infrastructure, power and utilities, capital markets, financial services and healthcare. The ABC launched the white paper as a private sector initiative to support the development of an Asean Economic Community.

At the launch of the LTB reports, Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, group chief executive of CIMB Group and member of the ABC Advisory Council, stressed the need for robust private-public engagement to see through the goal of creating a viable economic bloc.

He underscored that despite progress made in eliminating most tariff lines at roughly 99.65 per cent, non-tariff barriers between Asean countries remain high.

“I urge Asean leaders to review progress to-date, implementation prospects and with precision, specify what will and what will not be in place on December 31, 2015.

“These should also be backed by binding commitments by governments so businesses can prepare themselves with certainty.”

Nazir reiterated his vision for Asean 2.0, a set of initiatives to help spur economic integration. He identified three key elements to realize this vision. Firstly, he noted that there should be more power and funding to the Asean Secretariat.

Secondly, he proposed an Asean minister in each government to promote Asean goals domestically. Finally, he found that iconic projects such as the development of an Asean exchange, Asean ratings agency and even an Asean World Cup, would help capture Asean’s public imagination and sense of common identity.

Secretary-General of Asean, Le Luong Minh, welcomes the private sector’s support for the AEC.

“As what CIMB Asean Research Institute and Asean Business Club have done with Lifting-The-Barriers Reports, the private sector can carry out in depth market analysis of the region to identify potential markets and challenges that adds value to the on-going discussions on how we can enhance the process of economic integration.”

In his overview of the reports, Dr. Munir Majid, advisor to the Lifting-The-Barriers Initiative, stated the need for the public to impose significant pressure on governments to fast track Asean integration efforts.

For this Initiative to be successful, significant engagement between governments and businesses is required. He also stressed that greater public awareness is crucial moving forward.

“The LTB Initiative provides concrete solutions as seen by the new generation of the Asean corporate leaders and entrepreneurs, who are at the forefront of making daily business decisions.”

“The LTB reports do not just identify the major barriers and shortcomings. They also propose some workable solutions.”