The ASEAN Economic Ministers met on 8 December 2006 in Cebu and signed the following ASEAN Economic Integration Agreements:
i. the Protocol on ASEAN Framework (Amendments) Agreement for the Integration of Priority Sectors;
ii. the Protocol on ASEAN Sectoral Integration (Amendments) Protocols for the Integration of Priority Sectors;
iii.Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on Nursing Services;
iv. Protocol to Implement the Fifth Package of Commitments under ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services.
ASEAN PRIORITY INTEGRATION SECTORS
2. The Protocols on Priority Sectors capture measures in the second phase of Priority Integration Sectors which include refinement to the existing measures in Phase I Roadmaps, changes to timelines and expansion of product coverage for tariff elimination.
3. ASEAN countries will eliminate duties on 3,523 tariff lines on 1 January 2007. Apart from duty elimination, ASEAN countries will also implement measures to simplify customs procedures, strengthen cooperation on standards and conformance and enhance facilitation of travel and movement in ASEAN.
4. The signing of the Protocols reaffirms ASEAN commitment to accelerate economic integration and enhance overall competitiveness of the ASEAN countries.
5. In its effort to further facilitate intra-ASEAN trade, member countries have agreed to adopt Product Specific Rules (PSR) for 2,011 products of the Priority Integration Sectors.
6. These PSR will give flexibilities to exporters and manufacturers of ASEAN to choose the most convenient rule, that is, to either use the 40% Value Added Criterion or PSR in meeting the origin criteria in order to be eligible for the CEPT rate.
7. Various measures are also being undertaken to further integrate intra-ASEAN trade, including the elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) between Member Countries in three packages beginning 2008 and will be fully eliminated by 2010.
ASEAN FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT ON SERVICES
8. Given the importance of services liberalisation, ASEAN Member Countries have made substantial offers for the Fifth Package of Commitments under AFAS. ASEAN’s offer covers the following sectors/sub-sectors:
ii. Tourism and Travel Related Services;
iii. Computer and Related Services;
v. Business Services;
vi. Distribution Services;
viii. Maritime Transport.
9. ASEAN Economic Ministers have also agreed to have a concrete plan to liberalise the overall services sector in ASEAN by 2015. This includes possibility of staging of services liberalisation every two years. Sectors and sub-sectors which are of higher priority or less sensitivity to be identified by Member Countries for liberalisation in the early stages.
MUTUAL RECOGNITION ARRANGEMENTS ON NURSING SERVICES
10. This Arrangement will:
i. facilitate the mobility of nursing services professionals within ASEAN;
ii. enhance exchange of information and expertise on standards and qualifications;
iii. promote adoption of best practices for professional nursing services;
iv. provide opportunities for capacity building and training of nurses.
11. Under this arrangement, the following criteria must be complied with before nurses are allowed to practice in member countries. The individual:
must be registered and/or licensed as a professional nurse by the Nursing Regulatory Authority of the Country of Origin;
may apply for registration or licence in a Host Country to be recognised and allowed to practise nursing in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Host Country concerned.
12. The MRA also provides for the establishment of the ASEAN Joint Coordinating Committee on Nursing Services to facilitate greater understanding of existing policies, procedures and practices and develop and promote strategies to manage the implementation of this MRA. It also encourages Member Countries to adopt and harmonise standards and procedures in the implementation of this MRA.
13. This is positive step taken by ASEAN to strengthen professional capabilities by promoting the flow of relevant information and exchange of expertise, experience and best practices among Member Countries.