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ASEAN Economic Ministers sign two important documents

VNA 28/10/2010 - ASEAN Economic Ministers on Oct. 28 signed the Protocol to Implement the Eighth Package of Commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services and the Amendment Protocol to the Protocol to Provide Special Consideration for Rice and Sugar in ASEAN.

The Eighth Package of Commitments put forward a roadmap for the liberalisation of 15 new sectors with the participation of foreign capital rate of up to 70 percent for priority sectors in ASEAN, namely healthcare, tourism, e-ASEAN and aviation transport and 51 percent for other services.

The signing of the Protocol to Implement the Eighth Package of Commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services reflected an important progress in liberalising services in ASEAN towards the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. It also confirmed ASEAN’s determination to liberalise intra-bloc services by eradicating the majority of service barriers with a commitment higher than that within the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

On the amendments to the Protocol to Provide Special Consideration for Rice and Sugar, the Vietnamese Ministry of Trade and Industry said that due to the amendment protocol to provide special consideration for rice and sugar cited from the CEPT/CFTA agreement, ASEAN nations agreed to negotiate and sign the amendment protocol to change the citing source of regulations of the protocol from the CEPT/CFTA agreement to the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) following ATIGA taking effect on May 17, 2010.

Before the signing ceremony, the meeting of the ASEAN Economic Community Council (AECC) – an activity within the framework of the 17 th ASEAN Summit – was held under the chairmanship of AECC President and Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang.

The meeting said that on the way to the AEC, ASEAN had almost completed the implementation of measures from the first phase of 2008-2009, and has moved on to the second phase of implementation covering the period 2010-2011.

T o achieve a single market and common production base, ASEAN has made further progress, including ATIGA becoming a comprehensive legal instrument covering numerous measures impacting on the achievement of free flow of goods in the bloc.

On investment, ASEAN is working on an approach to reduce/eliminate investment restrictions. Easing these restrictions would attract more investment and increase the competitive edge of the economies in the region.

As for the financial sector, the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) is tasked by the ASEAN Finance Ministers to take the surveillance role under the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation (CMIM) and is expected to be operational by the first quarter of 2011.

In terms of food security, ASEAN has established the ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework and its medium-term Strategic Plan of Actions on ASEAN Food Security.

In the energy sector, the implementation of the 2010-2015 Plan of Actions for Energy Cooperation is making good progress. To achieve the aspirational goal of reducing regional energy intensity by at least 8 percent by 2015, ASEAN agreed to undertake an assessment and review of the ASEAN Energy Efficiency and Conservation (EE&C) target and develop a systematic plan of action and monitoring mechanism to achieve the target.

In the transport sector, the ASEAN Multilateral Agreement on Full Liberalisation of Passenger Air Services (MAFLPAS) has been finalised for signing by the ASEAN Transport Ministers during their 16th Meeting in November 2010 in Bandar Seri Begawan.

This agreement, together with the Multilateral Agreement on Air Services (MAAS) and the Multilateral Agreement on Full Liberalisation of Air Freight Services (MAFLAFS) signed in 2009, will realise the ASEAN Open Skies policy, which will in turn form the backbone of the ASEAN Single Aviation Market (ASAM) that will be established by 2015.

The ASEAN Strategic Transport Plan (ASTP) 2011-2015 will also be endorsed by the ASEAN Transport Ministers in November 2010.

In the area of information communications technology (ICT), the ASEAN ICT Master Plan 2011-2015 will be launched by the Telecommunications and IT Ministers Meeting in November, 2010.

The ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2011-2015, which is the successor of the Roadmap for the Integration of the Tourism Sector 2005-2010, is also being developed with the target of endorsement by the ASEAN Tourism Ministers in January 2011.

Regarding the third AEC pillar on equitable economic development, the Strategic Plan of Action for ASEAN Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Development 2010-2015 was developed to replace the ASEAN Policy Blueprint for SME Development 2004-2014. An SME Advisory Board will be established to provide a forum for networking as well as for deliberating and providing inputs on SME-related regional flagship projects and policy matters to the Ministers.

At the meeting, participants pointed out shortfalls in the implementation of plans.

Almost 20 percent of deliverables under the AEC Blueprint for 2008-2009 based on the AEC Scorecard still have not been achieved. These shortfalls are mainly the result of delays in the ratification of signed agreements and the alignment of ASEAN-wide agreements into ASEAN Member States’ domestic laws.

Therefore, at this meeting, ASEAN members countries shared the view that in the future, ASEAN should further accelerate the implementation of regional agreements and commitments of ASEAN plus. And in order to realise this task, it is necessary that ASEAN strengthens the coordinating role in the process of implementation of commitments at both national and regional level./.

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