ASEAN looking at fulfilling commitment with other countries

20:32, July 16, 2010      

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ASEAN is now looking at implementing fully its commitment with other countries, including China, Japan, South Korea and India so that whatever agreements signed between ASEAN and these nations will bear fruits.

Mahani Zainal Abidin, chief executive officer of the Malaysian Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), told Xinhua in a recent interview here that ASEAN had played an increasingly significant role globally, especially after the 2009 economic downturn that saw countries in the region emerging as the fastest growing economies in the world.

In terms of the downturn, most ASEAN countries were doing well in recovery because of the intra regional trade, said Mahani, adding that in that sense, ASEAN is a model for how countries could continue their integration process that was sustainable.

"It is a good example for other countries, and ASEAN plays an important role for East Asia to integrate further," said Mahani.

As ministers in the ASEAN region are gearing up for the upcoming 43rd ASEAN Ministerial meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, people in the region are turning their attention to the scorecard introduced earlier this year for the group to keep track of its progress towards economic integration come 2015.

While the region is deemed making a progress for a consolidated ASEAN and integrated Asia economic market, more needs to be done to increase the public recognition of the free trade agreements signed recently.

And that is among the agendas expected to be discussed at the meeting.

As a part of ASEAN, Mahani said that Malaysia wanted to first meet commitment for the trade agreements, while looking at how Malaysia could promote further integration services and harmonize trade facilitations among the countries to reduce red tapes of doing business.

"With all these being the targets of ASEAN internally to go towards zero tariffs, I think ASEAN is looking at implementing fully its commitment with other countries as it would have new implications on our industries," said Mahani.

The group has managed to agree on measures to minimize tariffs on intra-ASEAN trade in the previous ASEAN summit and gain support from its partners, when it signed free trade agreements with its neighbors in Asia like China and India.

The China-ASEAN FTA, the largest in the world, involves about 4. 5 trillion U.S. dollars of trade volume.

The average tariff on goods from ASEAN countries to China is cut down to 0.1 percent from 9.8 percent, while the six original ASEAN members, including Malaysia, will also slash the average tariff on Chinese goods from 12.8 percent to 0.6 percent.

Admitting that the agreement is a win-win situation for both China and ASEAN, Mahani believed that the lack of facilitation might just hinder efforts on regional economic integration as a survey conducted by ISIS had found that the public recognition of the agreements was lower than expected.

Mahani said that the study done in China found that the awareness among the Chinese firms was only 15 percent, and she was sure the situation in Malaysia was not much different.

"The first thing we should do to benefit from the agreement is to increase awareness so that the private sector actually knows about it. Second, we should reduce the red tapes to make logistics of products easy," stressed Mahani.

Meanwhile, Mahani said that ASEAN should do more than just reducing tariffs by working together to eliminate the non-trade barriers.

She hoped that this topic would be taken up for discussions when delegates are expected to put forward measures to implement decisions made at the 16th ASEAN Summit in April.

The ASEAN Ministerial Meetings are held annully where participants are expected to focus their discussions on measures to promote cooperation within the ASEAN bloc and in the Asia- Pacific region, and preparations for the summits such as the 17th ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit in October this year.

Also taking place concurrently with the ministerial meeting is the 17th ASEAN Regional Forum.

The third protocol amending the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation will also be signed during the meeting to facilitate the accession of the European Union and European Community to the treaty.

Source: Xinhua


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