Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wrap-up of the ASEAN Economic Ministers Retreat

As promised, we have more details on the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ retreat held in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on February 25-26:

  • The ACIA would take effect on March 1, 2012, as discussed in the previous post.
  • Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines plan to start their own pilot program for self-certification of origin by the 2nd quarter of 2012.  Thus starts “2 * ASEAN – 6”. 
  • On the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS), seven ASEAN members have met the threshold requirements for the 8th AFAS package.  The other three are making progress in meeting the requirements.  To meet the AFAS 2015 targets, the ministers agreed for

  1.   Member states to expedite completion of the 8th AFAS Package as soon as possible;
  2. Combine the remaining 9th to 11th AFAS Packages into two Packages targeted for completion by 2013 and 2015, respectively, with additional 24 new subsectors in each Package and improvements to the existing offers made under the 8th Package;
  3. SEOM/CCS will develop a roadmap towards the completion of the AFAS targets by 2015; and
  4. (SEOM/CCS will look into putting more effort into facilitation matters, in particular to address regulatory obstacles needed to facilitate greater trade in services across ASEAN.

  • On the ASEAN Trade Repository (ATR), the ministers agreed to give priority to the ASEAN Single Window (ASW), as much of the requirements for establishing the ATR would also be satisfied once the ASW was in place. 
  • The AEM agreed to decide on Hong Kong’s request to accede to the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) by August 2012.  The AEM reiterated that in the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP) negotiations on services and investment, ASEAN will maintain its stance that a positive list should be used, not a negative list.  The AEM also reiterated that ASEAN shall urge India in the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA) talks on services, investment and product-specific rules of origin to come up with one single MFN services offer to be extended to all ASEAN Member States. 
  • On the ASEAN Framework on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), it was agreed that that it would not neither be feasible nor realistic to get the highest and the lowest common denominator of the ASEAN bilateral FTAs (ACFTA, AJCEP, etc.) and use this for the RCEP, the ministers agreed that, at the very least, the RCEP should supplement, and therefore be better than, the ASEAN bilateral FTAs.  RCEP talks are targeted to begin by end 2012.

There should be more coming out of the Joint Preparatory Meeting that was held this week in Phnom Penh, and we’ll comment on that, too.