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16 November 2009

Asean Integration: Six members ready for zero-tariff in January 2010

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Six Asean member states will achieve their zero-tariff target for all merchandises moving across their borders as of January 1, 2010, reported Indonesia’s national news agency.

"This definitely calls for an ASEAN celebration," said Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the Asean Secretariat said in its statement in Jakarta, Saturday.

Dr Surin also said that it is a demonstration of how Asean is moving on track towards tariff liberalization, despite the global struggle against a rising tide of protectionism.

The six older Asean member states Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore and Thailand have been following the liberalization efforts since the introduction of the 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, leaving and transitting 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.

The committee comprises officials in the areas of Trade, Customs, Standards and Conformance, Transport and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (sanitary with regard to pests and pathogens, a point-of-origin phytosanitary certificate)Measures.

The committee 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.

GDP (Gross Domestic Product) combined Asean region to reach $1504 billion in 2008, also showed a two-fold increase from the year 2003 from some $718 billion.

The region`s combined GDP was $1,504 billion in 2008, a level almost double that of the 2003 level of $718 billion. Asean trade was on a similar upward trend: US$ 1,710 billion in 2008 compared to $824 billion in 2003. Foreign direct investment into Asean grew from $24 billion in 2003 to $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), taking place in Singapore this week.


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