TRADE transaction costs will drop by 10 percent starting 2020 and contribute to a highly integrated and cohesive Asean economy, according to the Chairman’s Statement issued by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Sunday after the conclusion of the 30th Asean Summit the day before.
Citing the recent 23rd Asean Economic Ministers’ (AEM) Retreat in March, chaired by Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, the statement noted the target will contribute to the goals of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025.
“We strongly encouraged Asean to continue strengthening public and private sector engagement, promoting transparency of non-tariff measures, streamlining and simplifying customs procedures, trade regulatory regimes, and reducing technical barriers to trade while ensuring quality and building confidence in Asean products,” the statement said.
The Philippines is host and chairman of Asean 2017. The statement noted that Asean leaders “welcomed the target set by the AEM at the 23rd AEM Retreat in March 2017 to reduce 10 percent of trade transaction costs by 2020. The timely realization of this target will contribute to the achievement of a highly integrated and cohesive Asean economy as envisioned in the AEC Blueprint 2025.”
The overall thematic priority of “Inclusive, Innovation-led Growth” for the AEC under the Philippines’ Asean chairmanship, which would be pursued through three strategic measures, namely, increasing trade and investment, integrating micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the digital economy, and developing an innovation-driven economy.
Noting the lessons learned from Brexit, the leaders underscored that the benefits of Asean community-building must be felt by its citizens.
The chairman, represented by President Rodrigo Duterte, is pleased with the progress made in the implementation of trade facilitation measures and initiatives in Asean, with a view to reduce cost and time of doing business in the region.
The entry into force of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade Facilitation on February 22, 2017, which creates a new momentum for Asean to further enhance our trade facilitation regimes is in line with international best practices.
Consistent with the AEC Blueprint 2025, “we urged relevant Asean bodies to take concrete steps to institutionalize within each relevant body a consultative process with lead private sector entities [business associations and business councils]as well as the Asean Business Advisory Council [Asean-BAC] representatives to support the implementation of initiatives under the sectoral work plans,” the statement said.
The emphasis on Asean MSMEs as drivers of inclusive and innovative growth in the region demonstrates the significance placed by Asean on the strong potential and well-being of this sector, in particular the micro enterprise stakeholders, which comprise up to 99 percent of registered businesses and generate a large chunk of total employment in the region, the statement noted.
“This recognition will translate into pro-active steps in line with the Strategic Goals incorporated in the Asean Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016-2025 toward promoting Asean branding for MSMEs and enhancing the ecosystem for MSME development, which is expected to help enhance MSMEs’
competitiveness to participate in and take advantage of domestic, regional and global market opportunities and have increased access to financing,” it said.
The Asean members consist of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand,
the Philippines and Vietnam.