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NEWS UPDATES 30 August 2010

ASEAN sets tone for competition

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Ministers from the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have gathered here for the five-day 42nd ASEAN Economic Ministers and 4th ASEAN Economic Community Meetings this week, to discuss how to strengthen the regions’ economies.

Asean is looking to bolster the region’s economy by cutting trade boundaries and bureaucracies in order to promote freer movement of goods and services.

ASEAN Deputy Secretary-General Sundran Pushpanathan said “the meetings are crucial in moving forward the formation of ASEAN single investment region.”

In a briefing he also said that infrastructure and national policies hinder standardization among nations.

ASEAN is trying to encourage members to stamp out price fixing and monopolies.

In an effort to help lagging countries catch up with more developed nations in the region, ASEAN, with the help of Germany’s InWent-Capacity Building Program, has launched ttwo new publications: the ASEAN Regional Guidelines on Competition Policy, and the Handbook on Competition Policy and Law in ASEAN for Business.

“They are expected to provide various approaches for reference by ASEAN members in drafting and introducing Competition Law and Policy,” Dr. Vu Huy Hoang, Industry and Trade Minister of Vietnam said during ceremonies here.

Competition policies help government regulate business competition in their nation “to ensure a level playing field (in businesses) and develop a culture of fair business competition for enhanced regional economic performance in the long run.” But persuading governments to introduce effective laws to ban price fixing and monopolies may take a while.

“Each country has different circumstances and the aim is to formulate for their own,” Teo Eng Cheong, chief executive of the Competition Commission of Singapore said in an interview. In effect, countries with these policies in place attract more foreign investors because they prevent unfair competition from entrenched local business.

With a well regulated competition framework, local residents experience lower costs and better quality goods and services. Inflows of more foreign investments create more jobs.

ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan said, in a press release, that “despite the economic downturn, Asean has proven itself to be a competitive region.”

The total global foreign direct investment in ASEAN rose from 2.8% in 2008 to 3.2% in 2009, which accounts for US$1.1 trillion in investments.

ASEAN countries with economy-wide competition policies are Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand. Malaysia has just adopted a nationwide competition policy which will take effect in 2012.

An ASEAN report said the Philippines and Cambodia are currently discussing competition on law bills and Lao PDR plans to initiate and introduce national competition policy and law soon.

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