The growing and diverse market for international personal care product brands in ASEAN with its sizeable young population from among 600 million people draws the attention and attraction of investors to the region. Reinforced by the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community, measures are being taken to ensure that the flow of goods, services, investments and capital in that industry will become even more seamless within the region.

Specifically, the ASEAN cooperation on Standards and Conformance aims to remove technical barriers to trade. Focus of the cooperation over the past years has been on aligning national standards to relevant international standards and the implementation of mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs) to fulfill regional objectives. Both the ASEAN cosmetic regulators and cosmetic industry have been rigorously working to address issues interrelated to technical barriers to trade in this sector, through the Agreement on the ASEAN Harmonized Cosmetic Regulatory Scheme.

Signed at the 35th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting in 2003, this Agreement includes the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD) which sets out to establish a harmonised regulatory regime in ASEAN for the cosmetics sector. Adoption of the ACD entails putting in place technical regulations supported by a quality infrastructure all across the region. Special needs of newer Member States of ASEAN, namely Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Viet Nam (CLMV), must be addressed in order to facilitate the full implementation of the ACD across the region.

As such, this effort is in line with the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), which focuses on the special needs of CLMV in implementing their commitments to building the ASEAN Community, ensuring that benefits of ASEAN integration are equitably shared.

Development gaps for the CLMV in the cosmetic sector will be addressed through support from Dialogue Partners and Donor Agencies through existing cooperation programmes. Under the ASEAN-EU cooperation the ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU (ARISE) will be providing support to the CLMV through technical assistance aimed at enhancing technical capabiities and eventually contributing to the full implementation of the ACD by CLMV. ARISE supports the ASEAN economic integration process through contributing to the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint. The 15-million Euro programme was officially launched at the ASEAN Secretariat on 17 January 2013.

To begin the process of support, a consultative meeting was convened where cosmetic regulators from the CLMV participated in a two-day deliberation in Jakarta. Facilitated by the ASEAN Secretariat and ARISE, the CLMV recognised their needs and established a three-year work plan that will address implementation gaps. Activities in the work plan will draw from lessons and experiences of ASEAN-6 and specific expertise of the EU and other partners. This proposed work plan will be the first work plan of its kind under a Dialogue Partner cooperation for CLMV support.