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ASEAN investment, trade protocols signed

Update: March, 09/2013 - 00:00
Two protocols facilitating investment and trade among ASEAN member countries were signed yesterday at the 19th ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting in the capital city.— VNS file photo

HA NOI (VNS)— Two protocols facilitating investment and trade among ASEAN member countries were signed yesterday at the 19th ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting in the capital city.

Meeting participants also put forward many important initiatives to speed up the economic integration in the region.

The two signed documents are the Protocol to Amend Certain ASEAN Economic Agreements related to Trade in Goods and the Protocol to Amend the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement.

Initiatives to strengthen the competitiveness of ASEAN, enhance the connection between ASEAN and partners, build ASEAN's business network and develop a supporting mechanism for ASEAN small and medium-sized enterprises were also discussed at the meeting.

The ministers reached high consensus on issues related directly to enterprises such as building ASEAN's business network, developing an assistance mechanism for ASEAN small and medium-sized enterprises and improving the capacity of young businesses, because enterprises were those who directly realise agreements reached by ASEAN.

Special attention was given to an initiative on proving the central and leading role of the bloc in establishing a regional economic structure called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Negotiations for the RECP are hoped to begin this year and be finalised by 2016. The initiative aims to create the world's biggest free trade region with a population making up 50 per cent of the world's total and GDP accounting for 30 per cent of global GDP.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Cam Tu said economic ministers of 10 ASEAN countries had focused on important issues related to creating the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.

Specifically, the ministers assessed economic co-operation in 2012, which was the foundation for defining the orientation of co-operation for this year towards building the AEC by 2015.

Deputy head of the ministry's Multilateral Trade Policy Nguyen Thi Hoang Thuy said the deadline of 2015 was looming, requiring ASEAN members to double their efforts in establishing an economic community so that they all benefit from a common market and a competitive economic region fully integrated into the global economy.

So far, ASEAN had completed 74.5 per cent of the targets set in the AEC Blueprint, Thuy said, adding that the existing problems needed to be solved were harmonization of customs regulations and standards for goods.

Deputy Minister Tu stressed that harmonisation of formalities was a big challenge for ASEAN countries on the way to building the AEC because the nations varied in their politics, culture and economic structure, especially between ASEAN 6 (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei and Thailand) and the four countries joining the group later including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam.

Over the past year, ASEAN countries had reached considerable achievements related to four areas: customs, formalities, standards for goods and food safety and hygiene.

Relating to customs regulations, the countries had signed a new customs agreement superseding the one signed in 1997. ASEAN countries were actively implementing the one-door customs mechanism toward building an ASEAN Single Window – a trade-facilitating environment operating on the basis of standardised information parameters. They had built a common customs strategy for the 2011-15 period.

ASEAN had reached consensus on procedures on certifying the origin of goods. Particularly, countries were piloting self-certification of origin of enterprises within a country, of which lessons would be drawn to complete mechanisms for each country, before building a co-ordinating mechanism for the whole bloc.

Standards

ASEAN countries were trying to harmonise the standards of 12 prioritised groups of commodity including electricity-electronics, pharmaceuticals, agricultural products and automobiles. At the same time, they had built a common management scheme in the cosmetics and electricity-electronics sectors. A similar scheme was being developed in the sectors of health, traditional medicines and food supplements.

Related to obstacles in building the AEC, head of Myanmar delegation Aung Naing Oo, Director General at the Ministry of National Planning Economic Development, told the Vietnam News Agency that the difference in economic development levels between ASEAN 6 and the four newer members were considerable, therefore they must join hands, with the assistance of partners to narrow the development gap.

ASEAN-EU consultations

Minister of Industry and Trade of Viet Nam Vu Huy Hoang.—VNS file photo

The 12th ASEAN Economic Ministers and EU Trade Commissioner (AEM-EU) Consultations Meeting (AEM-EU) was held yesterday in the framework of the AEM Meeting. Viet Nam is currently ASEAN's co-ordinator of ASEAN-EU economic co-operation.

On behalf of ASEAN Economic Ministers, Minister of Industry and Trade of Viet Nam Vu Huy Hoang outlined work on implementing programmes and initiatives to intensify economic co-operation, trade and investment relations between the two regions.

The ministers exchanged views on the current development of each region and were pleased to witness continuing expansion in trade and investment flows across ASEAN and the EU regardless of difficulties in the world economy.

In 2012, the EU was one of the most important trading partners of ASEAN, and the largest source of foreign direct investment in ASEAN.

They also discussed regional and international issues relating to regional economic integration in ASEAN and the EU and noted progress in negotiations on bilateral free trade agreements between several ASEAN member countries and the EU.

At the meeting, an ASEAN-EU Trade and Investment Work programme for the 2013-14 period was adopted. The programme includes a number of regular activities such as dialogues, consultations and co-operation and support programmes for ASEAN.

The meeting also identified one of the focuses of this year's co-operation as "Fostering investment relations between ASEAN and the EU". Accordingly, the parties have exchanged information on their latest investment policies.

On this occasion, ASEAN Economic Ministers and the EU Trade Commissioner also noted the implementation of various ASEAN-EU economic co-operation programmes such as ASEAN economic integration supporting programmes, capacity-building on institutional issues, collection of statistical data, and enhancement of the negotiation capacity of ASEAN's free trade agreements, intellectual property rights and air transportation. ASEAN's economic ministers welcomed a project called ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU (ARISE) with the aim to support the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by strengthening the capacity of ASEAN members and the ASEAN Secretariat.

The ministers said they believed that experiences on economic integration from the EU will be of great help to ASEAN.—VNS



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