Home » Customs & Trade » ASEAN urged to resolve trade barriers to market unification

To form a unified regional market, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) needs to remove trade blockages and harmonize its customs procedures and standards to facilitate trade and investment, a group of Japanese businessmen said.

Takashi Hibi, president of the Federation of Japanese Chambers of Commerce and Industry in ASEAN (FJCCIA), told ASEAN trade ministers they have to iron out technical issues among themselves, such as the need to simplify customs processes, document the ASEAN free trade agreement (AFTA), and dovetail product standards.

“Majority of Japanese companies note that as one big market and one strategic global manufacturing hub, it is crucial that ASEAN ensure us free flow of goods, human resources, and capital as well,” said Hibi during the FJCCIA-ASEAN dialog that took place early this month in Kuala Lumpur.

The Japanese federation identified two major issues that ASEAN members have to deal with: infrastructure development and elimination of nontariff barriers.

Hibi said infrastructure development would consist of “soft infrastructure” covering intellectual property rights protection and human resources development, and “hard infrastructure” including improving railway, maritime and air transportation securityty.

The Japanese group also underscored the importance of further reducing import duties, removing nontariff barriers, and simplifying customs clearance and procedures.

Japan has been among ASEAN’s top trading partners, with total two-way trade reaching US$214.8 billion last year. Japan is also an important source of foreign direct investments for ASEAN, with a share of 7.4 percent last year.

Pushpanathan Sundram, ASEAN deputy secretary general, admitted that lax regulations, the current customs procedures, and gaps in product standards within ASEAN member-states remain a stumbling block in trade with Japan. He said ASEAN hopes to resolve these issues by 2015.

The ASEAN economic ministers agreed to a road show in Japan, possibly April or May next year, to look into business and knowledge exchange between ASEAN and Japanese small-scale enterprises.

Both parties also endorsed the creation of a 10-year strategic vision for ASEAN and Japan.

The ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The FJCCIA comprises 4,444 Japanese companies operating in 10 ASEAN member-states.

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