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AEC Updates: November 2017 to June 2018

Driven by the overall theme of “resilient and innovative,” Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2018 leverages on last year’s focus on inclusion and innovation. With the key economic objective of deepening regional connectivity to position ASEAN as a region for seamless economic activity and growing opportunities, especially in e-Commerce and the digital economy, Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2018 will deliver on five key thrusts, namely: promoting innovation and e-commerce; improving trade facilitation; deepening services and investment integration; cultivating a conducive regulatory environment; and progressing ASEAN’s external relations.

Progress in some of economic priority deliverables for Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship include the following:

  • The ASEAN Single Window (ASW) aims to connect and integrate the national single windows of the ASEAN Member States to expedite the electronic exchange of trade and customs-related documents that traders can use to obtain clearances, permits, and other documentation for trade with ASEAN countries. On 1 January 2018, a significant milestone was achieved by five ASEAN Member States, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam, with the start of the live operation of the ASW, wherein preferential tariff duty can now be granted based on the electronic data (e-ATIGA Form D) exchanged and received electronically through the ASW gateway. Following this, outreach activities on the ASW are being intensified. Efforts to expand the coverage of the ASW to include all ASEAN Member States, and to add other customs and trade-related documents are underway. Additionally, efforts are underway to ensure the timely implementation of the ASEAN-wide Self-Certification Scheme.
  • On services, the Protocol to Implement the 10th Package of Commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS) has been finalised and is targeted for signing by the ASEAN Economic Ministers later this year. Likewise, good progress is underway in the negotiations for the ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement (ATISA), which would elevate ASEAN’s services integration to the next level.
  • A key aspect of this year’s Chairmanship theme is recognising the importance of capitalising on the opportunities presented by the digital age, and the need to promote cross-border electronic commerce (e-commerce) in the region. Efforts are being intensified in the negotiations for an ASEAN Agreement on Electronic Commerce, a targeted priority deliverable for the year, and a key output under the ASEAN Work Programme on E-Commerce 2017-2025.

The ASEAN Joint Declaration on Cruise Tourism was adopted by the ASEAN Tourism Ministers at the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2018 on 25 January 2018. It is a key development in ASEAN efforts to transform the region into a vibrant cruise destination, including through upgrading infrastructure, improving onshore facilities, and training the workforce for cruise tourism. In addition to these priority deliverables, progress has also been made in other AEC sectors, AEC monitoring and evaluation, as well as cross-cutting matters.

On energy cooperation, the region’s first multilateral electricity trade took place on 24 January 2018, with 450 MWh of electricity traded among the signatories of the Energy Purchase and Wheeling Agreement, namely Lao PDR, Malaysia and Thailand; the Agreement was signed on 27 September 2017. To advance to a wider framework for multilateral electricity trade in the ASEAN Power Grid, three projects are being undertaken, namely, the conduct a feasibility study on the mechanisms for multilateral trade, commencement of the implementation of the study on regional institutions for generation & transmission planning and systems operation, and updating of the masterplan for the transmission interconnection infrastructure.

The first ASEAN Mineral Awards was convened during the 6th ASEAN Ministers Meeting on Minerals on 30 November 2017 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. The Awards gave recognition to best practices by eight mining companies involved in mining, processing and distribution of mineral products in the ASEAN region for their achievements to support an environmentally and socially sustainable minerals sector. On external economic relations, the ASEAN-Hong Kong, China (HKC) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and ASEAN–HKC Investment Agreement have been signed by all Parties, and is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2019.

ASEAN continues to place the highest priority on the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), with the first RCEP Summit held on 13 November 2017. To date, 22 rounds of negotiations have been held. At the 32nd ASEAN Summit in April 2018, the Leaders tasked negotiators to exert all efforts to resolve outstanding issues to bring negotiations to a conclusion expeditiously.

In addition, ASEAN is working with the European Union (EU) to develop a framework setting out the parameters for the future ASEAN-EU FTA, as well as with Canada to finalise the Joint Feasibility Study for a potential ASEAN-Canada FTA. A Memorandum of Understanding is being developed between ASEAN and the Eurasian Economic Commission for closer economic cooperation among members.

On monitoring and evaluation, the terms of reference (TOR) for the AEC 2025 Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Country Visit have been adopted by the ASEAN Senior Economic Officials Meeting (SEOM) earlier this year, following the completion of the country visits to the Philippines and Indonesia. The Country Visit has four objectives: to verify AMSs’ compliance with respect to their AEC commitments; to discuss current initiatives, including national policies and regulations, undertaken in implementing AEC commitments in order to have more understanding of Member States’ policies; to review actual implementation of regional economic integration commitments on the ground; and to discuss the challenges as well as good practices in Member States’ implementation of AEC commitments. Another two country visits are planned to be conducted this year.

This article also appears in the 3rd issue of the ASEAN Economic Integration Brief (June 2018).