(Pic taken from Asean’s website)

KUALA LUMPUR: Long standing issues related to non- tariff barriers (NTB) and non-tariff measures (NTM) – a bane to the regional economic integration process of the 10 Asean nations – will continue be championed by Malaysia.

The International Trade and Industry Ministry (MITI) said Malaysia continues to play an active role to resolve the issues.

To date, out of the total 74 reported NTBs and NTMs, 54 cases have been resolved.

Thanks to the Asean Solutions for Investments, Services, and Trade (ASSIST), an internet-based and business-friendly facility, enterprises are able to lodge complaints on any distortions.

The 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEM) and Related Meetings which commenced on September 7 in Pasay City, Manila, ended yesterday.

Throughout the five-day meeting, a wide range of areas related to the broadening and deepening of economic integration within the region were deliberated.

They included a review of Asean’s overall economic performance, annual priorities under the Asean Economic Community Blueprint 2025, NTMs, regional integration, connectivity and technical assistance.

“With a target to double the intra-Asean trade by 2025, the Asean Single Window has been implemented while an Asean-wide self-certification scheme will be in place in 2018,” MITI said in a statement.

Through trade facilitation efforts, Asean trade ministers have targetted a 10 per cent reduction in trade transaction costs by 2020.

On the rising trends of protectionism and global policy uncertainties, they reaffirmed Asean’s commitment to open regionalism and the AEC 2025 agenda.

As part of Asean integration agenda, the ministers held consultations with their counterpart dialogue partners namely Canada, Korea, Hong Kong, US, Japan, China, India, Australia and New Zealand.

They lauded the conclusion of the Asean-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement and Asean-Hong Kong Investment Agreement.

“For Malaysia, Hong Kong was the ninth largest trading partner in 2016 with total merchandise trade of US$12.1 billion or 3.4 per cent of Malaysia’s total trade. “

Total approved investments from Hong Kong into Malaysia in 2016 amounted to US$59 million.

Exploratory discussions are afoot to examine the potential for an Asean-Canada FTA next.

On consultations with India, it was noted that the trade between Asean and India remained modest despite the trade in goods agreement inked in 2010.

“Malaysia stressed that while the governments make efforts to open market and facilitate trade through the Asean-India FTA, private sectors should take the opportunities created to increase trade.”

On the progress of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the ministers from the 16 participating nations reiterated the need for urgent political in order to achieve significant outcomes of the RCEP by end of 2017.

The successful conclusion of the RCEP will lead to the creation of the world’ largest trade bloc, covering nearly one third of the global economy.

Asean’s merchandise trade in 2016 was recorded at US$2.22 trillion, of which 23.5 per cent was intra-Asean.

Among the dialogue partners, China, the European Union (EU) and Japan ranked as the region’s top three trading partners.

In terms of investments, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the region reached US$96.72 billion in 2016, 24.8 per cent of which was intra-Asean.

The top three sources of FDI inflows to the region are the EU, Japan, and the US.

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