Having made good progress on tariff liberalisation, focus and emphasis is now being given to address non-tariff measures (NTMs) that may have trade effects. ASEAN’s focus on addressing NTM-related issues is premised on the policy objective that trade costs borne by traders doing business in the region go beyond customs or import duty, as embodied in tariff rates.
The concept of NTMs is very broad and includes a number of different measures, ranging from quantitative restrictions of all kinds to technical regulations, as well as standards and customs rules, among others. NTMs are distinct from non-tariff barriers (NTBs). NTBs are subsets of NTMs and are considered as measures that have potentially trade-inhibiting effects.
Aligned with ASEAN’s commitment to eliminate barriers to trade, ASEAN Member States (AMS) have collectively embarked on several initiatives related to NTMs. To ensure greater transparency, AMS are required to notify newly adopted NTMs as well as amendments to existing ones. A database on NTMs was set to be established, consisting of lists of NTMs submitted by each AMS. To date, lists of NTMs (in MS Excel format) are posted on the ASEAN website. The ASEAN NTMs database is a work in progress, with plans to update the lists as well as to reclassify measures to align the ASEAN NTMs database with international standards (i.e. UNCTAD 2012 NTM Classification system). In terms of institutional support, interagency bodies have been established at the national level in each AMS to strengthen coordination of domestic efforts on NTMs. Similarly, discussions are underway on actual NTM cases filed.
The development of the ASEAN NTMs database is part of a broader initiative that is the ASEAN Trade Repository (ATR). The establishment of the ATR will contribute to meaningful reduction in business costs through regulatory transparency and greater certainty in doing business. The ATR is envisaged to contain trade and customs laws and procedures of all AMS and other trade-related information (e.g. tariff nomenclature; preferential tariffs offered in different ASEAN Agreements; rules of origin; non-tariff measures; national trade and customs laws and rules; procedures and documentary requirements; administrative rulings; best practices in trade facilitation applied by each AMS; list of AMS authorised traders). Serving as a regional interface through a single portal of access, the ATR will link through the national interfaces of each National Trade Repository (NTR) being individually developed by AMS.