- The ASEAN Economic Ministers held their second informal consultations with the Ministers from the countries of the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA or CER). ASEAN was represented by H.E. Pehin Dato Abdul Rahman Taib, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Brunei Darussalam; H.E. Mr. Ir. Hartarto, Coordinating Minister of Production and Distribution, Indonesia; H.E. Dato’ Seri Rafidah Aziz, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia; H.E. Mr. Cesar Bautista, Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippines; H.E. Mr. Yeo Cheow Tong Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapore; H.E. Dr. Amnuay Viravan, Deputy Prime Minister, Thailand; H.E. Mr. Le Van Triet, Minister of Trade, Vietnam; H.E. Dato’ Ajit Singh, Secretary-General of ASEAN; and their respective delegations. The CER countries were presented by H.E. the Hon. Tim Fischer MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Australia; H.E. the Hon. Philip Burdon, Minister for Trade Negotiations, New Zealand; and respective delegations.
- The Consultations between the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) and the Ministers the CER countries were jointly chaired by H.E. Ir. Hartarto, Coordinating Minister for Production and Distribution, Indonesia as the Chairman of the AEM, and H.E. the Hon. Philip Burdon, Minister for Trade Negotiations, New Zealand.
- The ASEAN and the CER Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the multilateral Trading system and the need for both regional trading arrangements to reinforce the process of liberalisation within the WTO framework. This had been the basis on which Ministers had decided to establish region-to-region linkages between the free trade areas, reflecting the “open regionalism” concept of AFTA and the CER. In doing so, the Ministers noted the significant increase in trade between the two regions of 17.3% between 1994 and 1995. Two way trade between the two regions approached US$ 15.8 bn in 1995 from US$ 7.9 bn in 1990, an increase ,some 49.8%. ASEAN accounts for 14% of CER exports.
- The Ministers expressed their satisfaction with the developments of the Linkage to date Facilitating greater trade and investment flows between the two regions. Since the previous informal consultations held in Brunei Darussalam in September 1995, the Ministers noted the substantial progress made in various activities in standards and conformance and customs which prioritised a year ago. These activities appears in Appendix 1.
- The Ministers signed the Memorandum of Understanding concerning cooperation on standards and conformance between ASEAN and the CER countries. This is the first MOU between the two free trade areas and represents a considerable achievement in a short span of time. The MOU would provide a framework of cooperation on standards and conformance between the two regions. The Ministers took the opportunity to explicitly recognise the value of such arrangements as underpinning future collaborative work under the AFTA-CER linkage.
- To further develop the AFTA-CER Linkage, the Ministers endorsed additional activities. These activities appears in Appendix 2.
- The Ministers reiterated the importance of active participation from the business sectors in the activities of the AFTA-CER Linkage. To this end, the Ministers welcomed the first ASEAN-CER Business Meeting held in Jakarta the day preceding their consultations, and expressed their desire that networking and similar forums between ASEAN and CER industry bodies and firms be further developed. The Ministers also urged that private sector forums and cooperation could proceed bilaterally to strengthen the AFTA-CER linkage. The Ministers endorsed the proposals from the private sector to focus on human resource development in their joint activities. The Ministers agreed to hold a similar consultations with the representatives of the private sector of both regions in their next consultations next year.
- Ministers called on the private sector to identify constraints in the regimes and business practices of ASEAN and the CER which may hinder trade and investment flows to enhance better understanding and to create a climate for more a liberal and freer trade and investment access between both regions.
- The Ministers further agreed to the following additional activities for trade and investment facilitation:
a) the Ministers encouraged joint studies to examine the medium to long term developments of the AFTA-CER Linkage;
b) regular exchange of information on the latest developments of ASEAN economic cooperation activities and in the CER;
c) in services, such as transport and tourism.
10. The Ministers exchanged views on international economic issues, in particular those pertaining to the WTO and APEC. On the WTO, the Ministers noted that a critical review of the UR implementation was an important task and that there was the need for countries to adhere to their UR commitments. The Ministers also noted that the Singapore Ministerial Conference could provide the impetus to ensure that the unfinished business would be completed according to their new deadlines. The Ministers noted that the built-in agenda is an integral part of the UR commitments and that further work on all aspects of the Built-in Agenda should commence after the Ministerial Conference in Singapore. The BIA is a comprehensive and balanced package of work involving further review in nearly all aspects of the WTO’s current work as well as further work to liberalise specific sectors. The Ministers also noted that the Information Technology Agreements (ITA) concept held great promise but the potential could only be realised if contribution was made to shaping its development in such a way that would be mutually beneficial. The Ministers also discussed other issues and noted that whilst some issues were trade liberalising, others were not.
11. The Ministers also expressed its concern at the extra-territorial application of recent US legislation (the D’Amato and the Helms-Burton Acts) which imposes sanctions on countries or enterprises doing business with Cuba and several other countries.
12. The Ministers agreed to hold the next consultations back-to-back with the next AEM in September 1997.
List of Activities Prioritised in The
First Informal Consultations Between The AEM
and Ministers from The CER Countries
a) creation of a Customs Compendium for ASEAN and the CER countries;
b) linkage of trade and investment database between the two regions;
c) cooperation in areas of standards and conformance beginning with exchange of information and collaborative work on ISO 14000 environmental certification systems;
d) information promotion on standards and conformance by featuring developments in CER standards and conformance in the ASEAN Standards and Quality Bulletin.
List of Additional Activities Identified for The AFTA-CER Linkage
i. Technical Assistance on the Implementation of the GATT Valuation Agreement;
ii. Facilitation of Cargo Clearance;
iii. Electronic Commerce;
iv. Quarantine Messaging.
B) Standards and Conformance
i. Promotion of Alignment to International Standards;
ii. Achieving Mutual Recognition of Test Results and Certification Programs;
iii. Cooperation on the Development of Testing and Accreditation Systems;
iv. Information Promotion through mutual publications;
v. Information exchange and Human Resource Development in the area of the Accreditation of Quality System Certification Bodies.