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ASEAN Pushes Completion Of Economic Community by 2015

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

01 May 2013

In the statement following the recent 22nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Brunei Darussalam, it was emphasized that efforts are to be intensified to realize the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, as well as to strategize for a post-2015 agenda given the evolving regional free trade agreement (FTA) architecture.

The ASEAN Leaders were pleased with the progress of the AEC, where 259 measures or 77.54% of the AEC Blueprint (which looks towards full economic integration under the ASEAN single market) have been implemented. They also took note that, since the adoption of the AEC Blueprint in November 2007, per capita income in the region had risen from USD2,267 to USD3,759 in 2012.

In addition, the total trade of ASEAN member states – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – grew by 16.8%, from USD2.05 trillion in 2010 to USD2.4 trillion in 2011, as intra-ASEAN trade reached USD598bn from USD520bn, an increase of 15.1% over the same period. ASEAN has also continued to attract foreign investors, generating a record USD114bn in FDI inflows in 2011, a 23% increase from USD92bn in 2010.

The Leaders looked forward to progressing ASEAN's work for trade and investment facilitation, including the development of the work program on ASEAN non-tariff measures, as well as strengthening the protocol on an enhanced dispute settlement mechanism. They encouraged the setting up of an inter-agency body in each ASEAN member state to undertake further work in addressing non-tariff barriers.

They welcomed the progress made towards realizing the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which aims to bring together the ASEAN's existing FTAs with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, India and South Korea, into a single comprehensive agreement.

This 16-member RCEP is envisioned to be one of the largest FTAs in the world, covering 3bn people and making up one-third of the world's gross domestic product at USD20 trillion. Negotiations should commence in May 2013 in Brunei, with a view to their completion by 2015.

The Leaders looked forward to the consequent broadening and deepening of the existing ASEAN+1 FTAs, and envisioned the RCEP becoming a platform for future trade and investment integration in Asia.

Finally, they also noted the decision of the ASEAN Economic Ministers to engage Hong Kong on a bilateral basis, rather than within the ambit of the existing trade agreement with China, for an ASEAN-Hong Kong FTA that will be mutually beneficial.

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 | import duty | trade | Japan | Vietnam

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