The ASEAN Economic Ministers, H.E.Pehin Dato’ Abdul Rahman Taib, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Brunei Darussalam; H.E. Mr Hartarto, Coordinating Minister for Industry and Trade, Indonesia, H.E. Prof. Dr. S.B. Joedono, Minister of Trade, Indonesia, H.E. Tungki Ariwibowo, Minister of Industry, Indonesia, H.E. Sanyoto Sastrowardoyo, State Minister for Investment/Chairman of Investment Coordinating Board, Indonesia; H.E. Dato’ Seri Rafidah Aziz, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia; H.E. Mr Rizalino S Navarro, Secretary of Trade and Industry, Philippines, H.E. Mr Cielito F Habito, Secretary of Economic Planning, National Economic & Development Authority, Philippines, H.E. Mr Cesar B Bautista, Deputy Secretary of Trade & Industry, Philippines; H.E. Mr S Dhanabalan, Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapore; H.E. Mr Lim Boon Heng, Second Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapore; H.E. Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, Deputy Prime Minister, Thailand, H.E. Dr Trairong Suwankiri, Deputy Minister of Finance, Thailand and H.E. Mr Chalermphol Sanitwongchai, Deputy Minister of Commerce, Thailand; and H.E. Dato’ Ajit Singh, Secretary-General of ASEAN, met with the Japanese Minister of International Trade and Industry, H. E. Mr Hiroshi Kumagai in Singapore on 9 October 1993.

This second meeting between the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) and Japan’s MITI Minister was co-chaired by H.E. Mr S Dhanabalan, Minister of Trade and Industry of Singapore and Chairman of the AEM and H.E. Mr Hiroshi Kumagai, Minister for International Trade and Industry of Japan. The first meeting was held in Manila in October 1992.

Review of Economic and Trade Developments

The Ministers shared the view that in the light of the rapid economic and structural changes in the East Asian region, a regular exchange of views was useful to keep abreast of the dynamic developments. They exchanged views on, among others, developments in the international economic scene, namely the Uruguay Round, North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA and the Single European Market (SEM); the upgrading of ASEAN industries; and possible Japan-ASEAN cooperation with other countries.

Uruguay Round

On the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations, the Ministers expressed the hope that all GATT Contracting Parties should seize on the opportunity of the breakthrough achieved at the July G-7 Summit to work towards conclusion of the Uruguay Round by the end of the year.

The Ministers indicated that their respective countries were ready to play their parts in bringing the Uruguay Round to a successful conclusion. They recognized that a successful conclusion of the Round with a balanced and comprehensive package for liberalising market access on goods and services would increase growth in world trade and generate global economic growth. It will also provide for a supportive and conducive international environment for developing countries to continue with their autonomous trade and economic liberalisation.

ASEAN Free Trade Area

The Secretary-General of ASEAN briefed the MITI Minister on the status of the implementation of the CEPT Scheme for AFTA, and ASEAN’s notification of the CEPT Scheme for AFTA at the GATT. The Japanese Minister welcomed ASEAN’s decision to initiate the liberalisation of regional trade through AFTA.

The Ministers also noted with satisfaction the outcome of the first seminar on the CEPT Scheme for AFTA held in Japan to familiarize Japanese businessmen in May 1993. Experts from ASEAN were invited as guest speakers to brief the Japanese businessmen. In the light of its relevance and importance to the Japanese private sector, the Ministers agreed that such seminars were useful and should be held regularly to update the Japanese business community.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The Ministers exchanged views on the latest developments of NAFTA and expressed their hope that the NAFTA would not turn into a protectionist regional economic bloc.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to APEC which they agreed could provide the framework for advancing trans-Pacific economic cooperation by expanding trade and increasing investment flows through the liberalization of trade and facilitation of a more open investment atmosphere. The Ministers agreed that APE should not be turned into a trade negotiating forum.

Market Access

The Ministers also exchanged views on the need and ways to better improve market access to the Japanese and ASEAN markets. The Meeting noted that both sides would work towards greater trade liberalization and investment facilitation, increasing the transparency and simplicity of their respective trade and investment administrations and the removal of practices that hinder the free flows of trade for the benefit of the private sectors.

Prospects and Challenges for Upgrading of Industries in ASEAN Region

The ASEAN Ministers expressed their appreciation of the indepth survey carried out by MITI on “Prospects and Challenges for the Upgrading of Industries in the ASEAN Region” which was proposed by the MITI Minister at the first AEM-MITI Meeting. The ASEAN and MITI Ministers had a useful exchange of views on the proposals and observations presented in the paper, “Prospects and Challenges for the Upgrading of Industries in the ASEAN Region”. The Ministers agreed that specific programs should be developed and implemented in such areas as the development of small and medium-sized industries, supporting industries, intellectual property protection, industrial standardisation, quality control and technology transfer including joint R & D in industrial technology.

ASEAN-Japan Cooperation in Indo-China

The Ministers agreed that both sides should contribute towards the process of reconstruction and structural adjustment with a view t integrating the economies of Indo-China into the mainstream of International trading system.

Environmental and Energy Cooperation

The Ministers recognised the serious need to harmonize economic growth, energy supply-demand stabilization and environmental protection. The ASEAN Ministers expressed their appreciation of the assistance extended by Japan through its “Green Aid Plan” to improve the capabilities of ASEAN member countries to manage energy supply-demand stabilization and environmental protection.

The Meeting noted that ASEAN countries had been working to strengthen their legal systems and environmental administration organizations. The Ministers agreed that there should be closer cooperation in this field in view of the increased international awareness for the need to balance the above mentioned three E’s, namely economic growth, energy supply-demand stabilization and environmental protection.

Concluding Remarks

The ASEAN and MITI Ministers recognised the importance of maintaining a close economic relationship between the countries of ASEAN and Japan. ASEAN looked forward to working more closely with Japan, both through formal and informal links, to advance the existing economic cooperation to a higher plane. The Ministers agreed to a similar meeting next year in Thailand.