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Asean economic ministers to discuss liberalisation ahead of AEC

Thailand and ASEAN economic ministers will further discuss the grouping's service liberalisation, and speed up talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the elimination of non-tariff barriers once Asean integration becomes fully effective next year.

Somkiat Triratpan, deputy director-general of the Commerce Ministry's Trade Negotiations Department, said the Asean ministers will focus on promoting more integration in several sectors once the Asean Economic Community (AEC) goes into effect.

The ministry's permanent secretary Chutima Bunyapraphasara will act on behalf of the minister at the 46th Asean Economic Ministers' Meeting (AEM), which is being held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, from August 23 to 28.

Somkiat said the Asean ministers would also look beyond the region's full integration in 2015.

The key issues on the AEM agenda will be the liberalisation of the service sector, reduction or elimination of non-tariff barriers and the speeding up of RCEP negotiations so Asean and its six partner countries can create the world's largest free-trade agreement.

"Thailand has agreed to promote more integration after the AEC kicks off.

"The liberalisation of the service sector and trade facilitation will be key issues at the ministers' meeting," Somkiat said.

Thailand will also raise the issue of promoting Asean as the world's supply chain, for which Asean countries need to eliminate non-tariff barriers between their nations to boost industrial growth.

Asean is also being encouraged to support the development of small and medium-sized enterprises as well as promote research and development, innovation and technology exchange in the region.

At the 25th Asean Leaders Summit in November, ministers from the region are also expected to consider the Asean vision as well as discuss the progress of the RCEP. Asean believes that the pact requires further liberalisation than the current bilateral agreements Asean has with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The grouping will also finalise issues on service and investment liberalisation with Japan, as well as upgrade its existing free-trade pacts with China and South Korea.

At the meeting, Asean will sign four agreements on the liberalisation of more service businesses; agree to amend FTAs with Australia and New Zealand; sign an FTA with India; and agree on the acceptance of accounting professionals among Asean members.


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