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4.    Does this signal that it is a long way away for Asean to make any progress on promoting participation of civil society and human rights?

The promotion of participation of civil society and human rights has long been a thorny issue. Members of Asean must be sensitive to the differing culture and religious believes of each member states. Member states should also avoid implementing one’s standard belief to civil society and human rights. Notwithstanding, many member states of Asean are signatories of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, member states ought to be cautions in imposing ones ideology of participation of civil society and level of human rights on to others.

5.    Do you agree with the statement, if not, why? Which Asean member countries should benefit the most from this trade deal?

The Asean, Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZ-FTA) covers trades in goods, investment, trades in services and economic cooperation. The AANZ-FTA would see progressive elimination of 96% of total tariff. Each Asean member states has different policy in its economic development activities. Mostly dependant on agriculture industry compares to manufacturing and/or services related industry. Countries placing greater emphasis on agriculture might not be in an advantageous position when tariffs are removed for agriculture goods from Australia and New Zealand. This might affect local produces of fruits, meat and dairy.

The AANZ-FTA would also see benefit to Australia and New Zealand in the services sector namely engineering, education and financial services. AANZ-FTA opens the doors of ASEAN member states for the operation of the established and leading operations in the engineering, education and financial sector from New Zealand and Australia.
AANZ-FTA also provides for preferential to the newer Asean member states namely; Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

6.    Do you think those ‘buy-local’ campaigns go against the spirit of free trade. Don’t you think free trade and open economies are necessary for the world get out of the current recession? What’s your take?

‘Buy-local’ is not a market protectionism policy. ‘Buy-local’ should be seen favorably in the current economic crisis. Due to the lack of demand and the lack of purchasing power of major economies, it would be wiser for local consumers to be encouraged to purchase locally produced goods. This would avoid unemployment and closure of businesses. It would also stimulate economy of the respective member state.

7.    How effective will this swap arrangement be considering the unpredictable nature of global financial outlook?

The setting up of an enlarged currency pool of $120 billion by Asean, China, South Korea and Japan is aimed to ensure that countries have access to adequate financial resources to relieve selling pressure on their currencies. The initial fund of $80 billion has been enlarged with the participation of China, South Korea and Japan. The fund shall be utilised by member countries in need of funds as a short term aimed to swap their loss.

The enlarged currency pool would be effective despite the bleak global financial outlook. This is mainly because member countries need no longer turn to IMF which is already seeing a big demand for funds. Furthermore the conditions imposed by IMF has also seen a stricter control of disbursement of funds.


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