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AEC Updates: June 2017 to October 2017

Under the 2017 Chairmanship theme of inclusive, innovation-driven growth, the following progress and
achievements have been made:

  • ASEAN-wide Self-Certification Scheme. The Scheme will facilitate the utilisation of ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement by allowing exporters to issue origin declaration, decreasing transaction costs. ASEAN Member States (AMS) are working towards timely implementation of the ASEAN-wide self-certification scheme by 2018.
  • The ASEAN Seamless Trade Facilitation Indicators (ASTFI). The ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) adopted the ASTFI to measure and monitor the extent to which trade facilitation measures are implemented in the region through various ASEAN agreements, and the various sectoral work plans relevant to trade facilitation. Along with the ASFTI, the AEM also adopted the AEC 2025 Trade Facilitation Strategic Action Plan (ATF-SAP). Both the ATF-SAP and ASTFI are vital in achieving and tracking two crucial trade facilitation targets set by the Ministers, namely, the reduction trade transaction cost in the region by 10% in 2020, and the doubling of intra-ASEAN trade between 2017 and 2025.
  • ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement (ATISA).  ATISA will be a comprehensive, legal instrument for further integration of the services sector of ASEAN. Negotiations for ATISA are expected to be substantially concluded by end-2017.
  • Focused and Strategic (FAST) Action Agenda on Investment. The FAST Agenda is implemented through several initiatives that are aligned with the four pillars of the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement of investment namely liberalisation, promotion, facilitation, and protection, including the holding of a business matching activity between multinational companies and micro, small, and medium enterprises on 19 October 2017 in Manila, Philippines.
  • Review Mechanism for AEC. The Review Mechanism for AEC is conducted through the Country Visit process which is a technical verification tool for compliance monitoring of the AEC 2025 Monitoring and Evaluation Framework. The first full Country Visit was held on 9-13 October 2017 in the Philippines, while the second one will be held in Indonesia in late 2017.
  • Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). To date, 20 rounds of negotiations have been held. The RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee has agreed on the “RCEP Key Elements for Significant Outcomes by End of 2017” at the 19th round. Following instructions from the Ministers, negotiators focused efforts at the 20th round to achieve the outcomes set out in the paper. All RCEP Participating Countries remain committed to achieving a swift conclusion as mandate by the Leaders. RCEP meetings would be held on the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit.
  • ASEAN Work Programme on Electronic Commerce (AWPEC) 2017-2025. The AWPEC was finalised by the newly established ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Electronic Commerce (E-Commerce) and adopted by the AEM in September 2017. The AWPEC aims to facilitate cross-border e-commerce in ASEAN, covering multi-sectoral E-Commerce initiatives in the areas of infrastructure, education & technology competency, consumer protection, modernisation of the legal framework, security of electronic transactions, payment systems, trade facilitation, competition, and logistics. A key deliverable of the AWPEC is the development of an ASEAN Agreement on E-Commerce.
  • Inclusive Business (IB). The ASEAN IB Framework was endorsed by the AEM in September 2017.
    The IB initiative of the Philippines is based on the G20 framework that promotes the adoption of business models that provide goods, services and livelihoods on a commercially viable basis to people at the “bottom of the pyramid.”
  • Women’s Economic Empowerment. The Manila Statement on Mainstreaming Women’s Economic
    Empowerment in ASEAN, includes a six-point Action Agenda which was agreed upon by the AEM in September 2017 to be submitted for the Leaders’ adoption in November 2017.
  • The ASEAN Declaration on Innovation. The ASEAN Science and Technology Ministers endorsed the
    Declaration for the ASEAN Leaders’ adoption in November 2017. The Declaration signifies ASEAN’s commitment towards strengthening the impact of science, technology, and innovation towards people’s empowerment, inclusive growth, and strengthening of the ASEAN Community.
  • ASEAN Roll-on Roll-off (RORO). The Maiden Voyage of the ASEAN RORO Shipping Network
    (Davao–General Santos–Bitung or DGB route) was launched by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo on 30 April 2017 in Davao City, Philippines.

In addition to these priority deliverables, progress has also been made in other sectors of the AEC. The ASEAN Regional Guidelines on Food Security and Nutrition Policy was endorsed at the 39th Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers for Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) in September 2017. The Guidelines serve as a general framework to help AMS build stronger food security and nutrition cooperation and integration in the region. AMAF also endorsed several key frameworks and documents, including the ASEAN Public-Private Partnership Regional Framework for Technology Development in the Food, Agriculture and Forestry Sectors, revised ASEAN Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Management of Tropical Forests, Plan of Action on ASEAN Cooperation on Halal Food 2017-2020, and the ASEAN Guidelines on Prudent Use of Anti Microbials in Livestock.

With regard to ASEAN’s cooperation on transport, several important outputs were delivered at the 23rd ASEAN Transport Ministerial Meeting in October 2017. As part of the initiative to create an ASEAN Single Aviation Market, AMS have concluded the Tenth Package of Commitments on Air Transport Services under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services and signed the Protocol to facilitate its implementation. They have also signed the Protocol 3 on Domestic Code-Share Rights between points within the territory of any other AMS; adopted the ASEAN Air Traffic Management Master Plan; and adopted and signed the Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Flight Crew
Licensing. The ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Cross Border Transport of Passengers by Road Vehicles, a key regional transport framework, has also been concluded and signed.

On external economic relations, the negotiations for the ASEAN-Hong Kong, China (HKC) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and ASEAN–HKC Investment Agreement have been concluded in September 2017. At the 6th AEM-Canada Consultations, ASEAN and Canada agreed to launch exploratory discussions to examine the potential for an ASEAN-Canada FTA, and to finalise the Joint Feasibility Study Toward an ASEAN-Canada FTA. As for the review of existing ASEAN plus one FTAs, the Report of the Stage One General Review of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free
Trade Area Agreement has been completed.

This article also appears in the 2nd edition of the ASEAN Economic Integration Brief.