ASEAN chief warns FTA gov'ts against protectionism

19:43, January 01, 2010      

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Governments in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should resist temptation of protectionist measures by imposing non tariff barriers as the free trade area (FTA) between the region and China takes effect on Friday, the head of the association told Xinhua in an exclusive interview recently.

"Avoid that, in every forum that I have attended on behalf of ASEAN, we talked about the problem of protectionism, protective measures and it was all agreed that it's not going to be good for economic recovery, not good for economic health of any country of any region. Therefore every government will have to resist temptation of protectionist measures," Secretary General of ASEAN Surin Pitsuwan said.

Surin said that indeed the implementation would be a negative impact for people on some industrial and business sectors.

"But over all, protective measures are not going to help in the long run because they are going to do damage than help," he said.

According to Surin, the implementation of the FTA will be gradual so that livelihood and jobs would not be affected.

"We just have to make adjustment. We cannot just complain and not moving, not accommodating, not adjusting. That's not the way of future. The way of future is to be competitive, to be prepared, to open up and to benefit from the open space and open market out there," he said.

Surin said that since the comprehensive economic cooperation agreement was signed in 2002, the economy and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN has improved tremendously.

"In terms of trade alone, it was from about 60 billion U.S. dollars to 192 billion dollars in 2008. That's in five years. And the growth rate is almost 30 percent, which makes China a very quick and fast trading partner with ASEAN, up to number three now and I'm sure it will take over Japan and the European Union soon," he said.

Surin said that aside of goods and services, there would be investment liberalization between both sides.

"So, we hope that there will be more direct foreign investment from China to ASEAN. Together, we have attracted a great deal of investment already from around the world," he said.

Surin said that with a balanced growth, both sides would like to have an inclusive and equitable growth.

"People of China and ASEAN in general will benefit from this growth, rather than the fruit of the growth is being capped among small group of people," he said.

He also said that a closer economic cooperation, bilateral ties between both sides will increase.

"Middle class of China is expanding, which will be good for ASEAN products. Middle class of ASEAN is growing, expanding, which will be good for Chinese export and Chinese services," he said.

He said that East Asia is being expected to be a foremost locomotive for world economic recovery.

"With the coordination, we will make sure that our region will increase its influence around the world, will expand its profile and heighten its contribution to the global economic recovery," he said, adding that the center of growth will be very much anchored in East Asia.

The region is emerging very quick out of the crisis while China's growth in the midst of the crisis have been impressive of more than 8 percent and in 2010, it is expected to be almost 9 percent, said the secretary general.

"Countries of South East Asia are also emerging even though not at the same rate, but 3.4-3.5 percent. That's also very impressive in the midst of global slowdown," he said.

Surin also said that the relationship between China and ASEAN has been comprehensive, not only on economy, politics and security but also on people's health, climate, environment, culture, sport, drugs and other non traditional security issues.

Source: Xinhua
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