To deepen Asean collaboration, each of the 10 member states has accelerated reduction of its import tariffs for many sensitive products and continues to work on drafting an Asean master plan for 2016-25.
Sirinart Jaimun, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said yesterday that during a meeting of the Coordinating Committee on Asean Trade in Goods Agreement in Phuket, 150 officials from the 10 countries have agreed to urge each country to lower duties on its remaining sensitive products for other Asean countries so that trade in the region could continue growing after the full integration of Asean.
This next step would apply to both the inaugural six countries and the new members.
For instance, Vietnam has been encouraged to slash its duty on petroleum products to 20 per cent by January 1, 2017 and to 0-5 per cent by January 1, 2021.
Indonesia and Malaysia should cut their high import taxes on alcohol beverages, and Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam should reduce tariffs for most goods by 2018.
Asean has also discussed the proposal to encourage all members to extend special privileges automatically to other members if any member has provided those privileges to non-Asean countries.
This was because each Asean country has negotiated many free-trade agreements with other countries.
Asean officials also continue to look for a consensus for finalising the AEC 2025 Strategic Action Plan so that Asean will be deeply integrated after the completion of the 2015 Asean Economic Community.
Beyond Asean, the recent Informal World Trade Organisation Ministerial Gathering in Davos showed that WTO members supported the completion of the marathon Doha round of talks on trade liberalisation.
Winichai Chaemchaeng, vice minister at the Commerce Ministry, said member states have called on the WTO to scrap farm subsidies and enhance market access for agricultural products, industrial products and trade in services.
The member states also agreed that the WTO needs to discuss new issues including electronic commerce, investment, trade competition policies and trade regulations.