ASEAN High-Level Task Force met on measures to step up economic integration

The ASEAN High Level Task Force on Economic Integration (HLTF-EI), composed of high-ranking trade officials from the ten ASEAN member economies, met in Bangkok last week to discuss the strategic directions for ASEAN on achieving the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015 and ASEAN’s relationship with its trading partners.

“The external difficulties like the crisis in Europe and uncertainties in key markets as well as the current momentum in forming the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have strengthened ASEAN’s resolve to work harder for a more integrated ASEAN,” said Undersecretary for Industry Development and Trade Policy Adrian S. Cristobal Jr.

Undersecretary Cristobal, who is the HLTF-EI Leader for the Philippines, said the HLTF has recommended to the AEM the following action points: strengthen institutional mechanisms to address non-tariff trade measures affecting intra-ASEAN trade; review the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services to enhance services liberalization and facilitation; and strengthen institutional arrangements under the ASEAN Economic Community Council.

During the meeting, the Philippines also emphasized the need to consider formally crafting a post-2015 vision for the ASEAN Economic Community and develop the next phase of the blueprint and roadmap of the regional economic integration agenda. “We need to look further than 2015 and ensure that the regional environment will enable our SMEs to compete in the global market. Regional integration would mean lower business costs, among other benefits,” Cristobal added.

The HLTF also recommended activating the ASEAN working groups on trade in goods, services, and investments to work on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) template in their 019-12NASEAN High-Level Task Force met on measures to step up economic integration 2respective areas. They also recommended adopting “comprehensive, mutually beneficial, and pragmatic approach” in negotiating the RCEP.

The RCEP, adopted by the Ministers during the Summit in Bali last year, sets the principles by which ASEAN member countries further their engagements with countries they have free trade agreements with as well as with other economic partners.

The Meeting agreed for the Philippines to host the 1stASEAN Regulatory Reform Symposium in July 2012 to be held back to back with the HLTF-EI Meeting in Manila. The symposium is part of the ASEAN Regulatory Reform Program endorsed by the Ministers at the42ndMeeting in Manado, Indonesia last August 2011.

“The Symposium will be an opportunity for the Philippines to highlight our current reform efforts and support the parallel advocacy of the private sector in implementing regulatory reforms to boost our country’s competitiveness,” said Undersecretary Cristobal.

The ASEAN integrated community is a combined market size of 550 million. ASEAN has been engaging its trading partners in support of the

ASEAN vision of a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, equitable economic development, and fully integrated economy by 2015. The ASEAN has preferential trade agreements with Japan, China, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. (END)