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ASEAN Looks To End-2015 Regional Trade Integration

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

18 November 2014

During their 25th Annual Summit in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, the Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) welcomed the progress already made and reinforced their commitment towards the realization of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by December 31, 2015.

ASEAN-6 countries – comprising Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand – eliminated tariffs on 99.65 percent of tariff lines in 2010. ASEAN's newer members – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam – reduced tariffs on 98.86 percent of their tariff lines to the zero-to-five percent tariff range by the same year, and are expected to eliminate tariffs on these goods by 2015, with flexibility for a few import duty lines until 2018.

The majority of all goods in ASEAN are therefore already transit tariff-free, and the focus is now reportedly on harmonizing ASEAN-wide trade facilitation initiatives by eliminating non-tariff barriers. Discussions were held at the meeting on how ASEAN should develop and deepen its economic inter-dependence further after 2015.

With a market of 600 million people, ASEAN was already the seventh largest economy in the world. It was the third largest in Asia in 2013, with a gross domestic product of USD2.3 trillion.

Leaders at the meeting reiterated their commitment to global and regional economic partnerships by working closely with all of ASEAN's partners to develop further the ASEAN+1 free trade agreements (FTAs) with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, India, and South Korea. In particular, they pointed to the beginning of talks on the prospective ASEAN-Hong Kong FTA.

They welcomed the ongoing negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which aims to bring together ASEAN's existing FTAs into a single comprehensive agreement, and urged all parties to intensify their efforts to advance these negotiations with a view to concluding an agreement, also by the end of 2015.

TAGS: tax | free trade agreement (FTA) | Brunei | Burma | India | tariffs | Australia | China | Laos | Philippines | Singapore | Thailand | agreements | Cambodia | Hong Kong | Indonesia | Korea, South | Malaysia | New Zealand | trade | Japan | Vietnam

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