Bali, Indonesia, 23–24 November 2009

Mr Joachim von Amsberg, Country Director for Indonesia, World Bank

Leaders and Representatives of the High Level Task Force on ASEAN Economic Integration (HLTF-EI) and ASEAN Senior Economic Officials Meeting (SEOM)

Representatives from the Finance Ministries and Economic Planning Agencies of ASEAN Member States

Distinguished Speakers

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

It is my pleasure to join you here today for this important workshop. I hope you had a smooth journey here and are feeling already relaxed in the beautiful setting of Bali.

This workshop comes hot on the heels of the 17th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meeting in Singapore which ended one week ago. Among the topics that featured prominently in the Leaders’ discussions was the importance of structural reform as a cornerstone of inclusive growth, and which is the main theme of this workshop.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), structural reform has increased productivity growth while regulatory reform is estimated to have resulted in gains of a hundred billion dollars a year for some countries. This is well in excess of any estimates of tariff savings achieved. All these go on to show that while structural reform can create short-term adjustment costs, there is a lot more to be gained by focusing on well-targeted reforms.

In ASEAN, our community building specifically in the economic pillar is guided by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint. The Blueprint basically lists down the various measures that ASEAN Member States should implement, both at the regional and national levels, in order to achieve the AEC by 2015.

A key characteristic of an AEC is a single market and production base with the free flows of goods, services, investment, skilled labour, and freer flow of capital. To fully realise the opportunities and benefits from an open trading and investment environment, “behind-the-border” policies ought to support competition and efficiency.

In ASEAN, efforts are being undertaken to identify and prioritise structural reform initiatives. We are learning from international best practices such as from the World Bank, APEC and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). I am delighted to note that we have lined up speakers who will be sharing with us about work undertaken in structural reform in these organisations.

In terms of tariff liberalisation which is a more a “at-the-border” concern, ASEAN has made great strides. Come 1 January 2010, six ASEAN countries will achieve their zero-tariff target for all merchandises moving across their borders.

With the advancement of ASEAN’s trade agenda, eliminating non-trade or “behind-the-border” impediments to trade and investment now takes on an increased importance, especially with ASEAN deepening its economic integration efforts. Trade facilitation is one of our key focus in the horizon.

The aim of trade facilitation is to make markets more efficient by reducing costs to business operating in and especially between markets. ASEAN has introduced various trade facilitation measures in their agenda and these are spelt out in the AEC Blueprint.

Among the latest efforts is the plan to develop an ASEAN Trade Repository, which will be a dynamic inventory and a single reference point, providing the most up-to-date information on all tariff and non-tariff measures applied on goods entering, exiting and transiting a country in the region. To monitor the implementation of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, an ASEAN Trade Facilitation Joint Consultative Committee (ATF-JCC), comprising officials from trade, customs, standards & conformance, transport and sanitary & phytosanitary measures, is also in the midst of being set up. You will hear more about trade facilitation tomorrow, where a session has been dedicated to it.

At the national level, individual ASEAN countries have embarked on structural and regulatory reforms. We are happy to have Datuk Dr Rebecca with us today to share Malaysia’s experience in this area. We will also hear from the experiences of the European Union (EU) and South Korea. Herewith, I would like to invite the workshop participants to share their experiences or thoughts during the Question and Answer session so that we can all learn from one another. This is the key purpose of the workshop and I certainly hope we can achieve that. By holding the workshop in Bali, I also hope that everyone will be in a more relaxed mood thus allowing free-wheeling discussion to take place.

Lastly, I want to thank the World Bank Institute, the World Bank and my colleagues at the ASEAN Secretariat for drawing up a comprehensive programme that aims to tackle this important subject that policy-makers need to think hard about especially in the post-crisis economic landscape. I also want to thank the World Bank Institute for their funding support for this workshop; the session chairs and speakers who have taken tremendous efforts in preparing the presentations; and, last but the least, all of you who are here today eager to listern, learn and share your ideas and experiences on this important subject.

Thank you and have a pleasant stay in beautiful Bali.