Sunday, March 9, 2014

ASEAN Around the Horn

Today we have another edition of “ASEAN Around the Horn,” a recap of developments I didn’t cover in other posts:

1. The ASEAN Economic Ministers held their retreat February 26-27 in Singapore.  On the ASEAN Economic Community, the ministers stated as follows:

"The Ministers discussed and agreed on the priorities of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2014, which include raising awareness on the AEC; operationalising the ASEAN Framework for Equitable Economic Development; strengthening regional cooperation for SME development; and developing a regional framework for public-private partnership. Several agreements and protocols which would further deepen market integration, particularly in easing the flow of services, as well as services and investment agreements with Japan and India, are also targeted to be signed within this year."

And on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) talks the ministers stated:

"The Ministers noted the good progress made in the ongoing negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Since the negotiations on the RCEP commenced in May 2013, three rounds of negotiations have been completed. Participating countries continued to deepen their detailed and technical work on trade in goods, trade in services and investment in the relevant Working Groups. Work has also begun in other areas with the recent creation of Working Groups on intellectual property, competition, economic and technical cooperation, and dispute settlement. The Ministers agreed on the importance of maintaining the negotiating momentum to ensure the successful negotiation of the RCEP by the end of 2015."

I will have a more detailed post on the Retreat when I get more information.

2. Indonesia took another step towards ratifying the ASEAN Agreement on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution.  Legislators representing almost 65% of the Indonesian parliament agreed to support passage of the Agreement. Only the opposition the PDI-P and PKS parties oppose the Agreement as an infringement of Indonesian sovereignty.  Indonesia hopes to have the Agreement ratified before the next ASEAN haze meeting in April.

3. The ASEAN Alliance of Health Supplement Associations (AAHSA) and the International Alliance of Dietary/ Food Supplement Associations (IADSA) have jointly issued an ASEAN TMHS  (Traditional Medicines and Health Supplements) Scorecard, which purports to be first of its kind developed by an industry in the region:

"The Scorecard affirms the significant progress ASEAN has achieved in the harmonisation with 9 out of the 14 standards and technical requirements being completed since 2004 in the areas of labelling, composition, quality, safety, and product placement. The Scorecard also shows that the TMHS harmonisation is reaching the goal of building the ASEAN Single Market in this sector as most of the measures identified for harmonisation have met the 50% threshold for completion with a few remaining to be completed by the end of 2015. The majority of the companies involved in the health supplements industry, including the small and medium enterprises will eventually be able to achieve the harmonised standards and technical requirements."

"The scorecard indicates that ASEAN would need to work swiftly to complete the remaining measures. A number of measures remain in progress or on hold due to the lack of consensus on how to tackle them. The health supplement sector feels strongly that any exceptions from the ASEAN requirements, such as on labelling, will impede the free flow of health supplement products across the region, and believes ways should be found to remove these exceptions."

4. India supposedly has completed the domestic ratification procedures for signing the services chapter of the ASEAN-India FTA.  This has been reported many times previously, the services chapter seems more likely to reach fruition this year.

5. The UN warned that greater regional integration in ASEAN could also benefit the narcotics trade unless ASEAN member states improve their criminal justice and public health infrastructure.

6. Seafood producers plan to issue a harmonized ASEAN industry standard for shrimp.  This is to help ASEAN shrimp producers deal importation issues arising in major markets such as the EU and the US.