MANILA, Philippines – New guidelines on trade of goods are being considered to be put in place within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as member economies are called to significantly slash existing non-tariff measures and barriers to achieve the region’s economic potential.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said yesterday cutting down non-tariff measures and barriers across the 10-member ASEAN will be on the agenda of the economic ministers for this year’s ASEAN summit.
“We’ll have to have some guidelines or parameters to test to be able to justify setting non-tariff measures. I have recommended that previously and maybe we’ll get deeper to that discussion. It’s time for us to assess certain guidelines that we will all accept as a basis for non-tariff measures and barriers,” Lopez, who is also the current ASEAN Economic Ministers chair, said.
The trade chief said all ASEAN member countries have agreed in principle on the need to bring down non-tariff measures and barriers in the region.
Non-tariff measures are policy tools outside ordinary customs tariffs that can potentially have an economic effect on international trade, changing prices and quantities traded. Existence of such barriers hinder exporters’ access in markets where these measures abound.
In his keynote address during yesterday’s Prosperity for All Summit, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said non-tariff barriers in ASEAN rose from 1,634 measures to 5,975 between 2000 and 2015.
“This cannot be tolerated, it has to be checked and reversed. For ASEAN to reach that target economic total of $9.2 trillion (by 2050), NTBs and NTMs have to be reduced by at least 50 percent. There is no alternative if we wish to be able to seize that prize. So huge, coordinated efforts are required to deal with this problem,” Razak said.
With most of its economies growing faster than most of the rest of the world, Razak said the ASEAN economy is expected to amount to over $9.2 trillion by 2050, making it the fourth largest in the world.
The Malaysian Prime Minster said a big challenge for ASEAN to become a significant world market, however, is in ensuring that the integration of individual economies be driven through.
“We have to bring down further the trade tariffs which still exist. WTO figures show average tariffs in ASEAN were around four percent in 2015. The work to bring them down to zero must be pursued vigorously,” Razak said.
“Next, we must work to facilitate Intra-ASEAN trade further. To achieve the $9.2 trillion figure by 2050 there has to be a 20 percent reduction in fixed trade costs. We need to work towards facilitative measures such as national single windows seamlessly linked to the ASEAN single window, and standardized customs procedures.
Lopez said the Philippines for its part is a contributor of these so-called non-tariff barriers and measures, but those present in…